Although David Eiler hopes to unseat state Sen. Luther Olsen in the 2012 Republican primary, he has no plans of running in a possible recall election.
Olsen, who represents the 14th Senate District, currently faces a recall effort as a result of his vote for Gov. Scott Walker’s bill to end collective bargaining rights for public employees.
Recall petitions are being circulated against eight Republican senators and eight Democratic senators.
If petitioners gather the 14,733 signatures needed for a recall in the 14th Senate District, an election will be held and any candidate, Republican or Democrat, can be on the ballot if they comply with Wisconsin campaign laws.
Eiler said he plans to focus his efforts on winning in 2012, rather than challenging Olsen this year.
“I’m going to let Luther fight that battle,” Eiler said. “The 14th is a large Senate district, and I’ve got a lot of territory to cover to get my name known.”
Two Democratic groups supporting the recall of the eight Republican senators have committed $500,000 to a TV ad campaign. In some markets, the ad specifically targets Olsen.
Public Policy Polling conducted a survey for Daily Kos, a progressive website, regarding each of the eight Republican senators who currently face recall efforts.
Olsen was among three Republicans who trail behind a generic Democrat in the survey.
According to Daily Kos, 49 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for a Democratic challenger, while 47 percent said they would vote for Olsen. The two-term senator had a 32 percent approval rating and a 42 percent disapproval rating among the 2,307 people who responded. Forty percent supported a recall, while 39 percent opposed a recall of Olsen.
Although the 14th Senate District traditionally leans Republican, 52 percent of the district’s voters swung to Barack Obama in 2008. Two years later, 57 percent voted for Walker. Olsen ran unopposed for his second term in 2008.
Eiler, however, is not running against Olsen because of the incumbent’s vote on Walker’s bill. He is opposed to Olsen’s positions on education.
Olsen is chairman of the Senate Education Committee and served on the Berlin Area School Board from 1976 to 1997.
Eiler, who has served four years on the Markesan school board, said he decided to run against Olsen because, “I didn’t feel we were being represented as taxpayers, school board members or business owners.”
Eiler is especially opposed to Olsen’s support of virtual schools.
“I’m going to fight for teachers’ jobs,” Eiler said. “I believe kids need that one-on-one mentorship they get from teachers and can’t get from a computer.”
Eiler said his No. 1 issue is finding alternative sources for school funding. He supports adding 1 cent to the state’s sales tax to provide revenues for public education.
“Another penny on the sales tax isn’t going to kill us and it would provide money for the schools and take some of the burden off the property tax,” Eiler said.
He first became involved in education issues when he helped form United We Stand for Markesan Schools, a group that successfully passed a referendum in 2006 to increase funding to keep local schools open.
Had the referendum failed, as it had in the past, the district would have been forced to dissolve, Eiler said.
As the owner of an insurance agency in Brandon and a vice president of the Markesan Chamber of Commerce, Eiler described schools as the economic lifeblood of a community.
“When I spoke to people about the referendum, I told them, ‘Your taxes will go up whether you vote for this referendum or not. So, would you rather pay higher taxes in a dead community with declining property values or would you rather pay higher taxes in a vibrant community?'”
Eiler said he supports a flat tax of 11 percent on income and lower taxes for small businesses rather than “pumping billions of dollars into corporations and large investment firms.”
Describing himself as a Tea Party supporter and a born-again Christian conservative, Eiler’s values are part of a long family tradition in Wisconsin.
He said he attended Eureka Methodist Church, where members of his family have worshipped since it was founded in 1868. He also noted that his father, Carl Eiler, was born and raised in Waupaca, and his great-grandfather is buried in a cemetery in Farmington.
“My grandfather fought to preserve one-room rural schools in the 1960s, and here I am trying to keep teachers in schools,” Eiler said.