State Rep. Fred Clark, D-Baraboo, announced April 21 that he will run against Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, in the recall election.
Democrats collected nearly 24,000 signatures on petitions to recall Olsen. The petitions were delivered to the Government Accountability Board on April 18.
“This was not a decision that I made casually,” Clark told the County Post. “I respect Senator Olsen personally and I have agreed with him and even worked with him on a number of issues.”
Clark said he was disappointed by Olsen’s vote for Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill even when it went against the wishes of the majority of his constituents. He said Olsen initially indicated he would work for a compromise, then voted with GOP leadership for a bill that not only ends collective bargaining rights for public employees, but gives a political appointee the authority to dismantle Wisconsin’s Medicare programs without legislative oversight and allows the governor to sell off state-owned power facilities without soliciting bids.
“Senator Olsen’s support for policies that even he described as ‘radical’ shows just how much he’s lost touch with his constituents and their values,” Clark said. “Despite the fact that Senator Olsen has always been viewed as a moderate, there are at least 24,000 people in this district who don’t think he was listening to them, who feel that he’s taking his orders from Governor Walker and the Fitzgerald brothers. The stakes are too high to allow our elected representatives to just go along to get along.”
Walker’s bill, which has yet to be enacted due to a court order, also seeks to replace three dozen civil servants with political appointees.
Clark noted Walker’s record for appointing political cronies should be cause for concern. The Walker administration gave an $81,000 job to Brian Deschane, who, besides being the son of a lobbyist and major campaign contributor, has little management experience and was twice convicted of drunken driving. The administration also hired Valerie Cass, the 25-year-old woman identified as Republican Sen. Randy Hopper’s girlfriend. Hopper, 45, also faces a recall election. His wife was among those who signed the petitions for his recall.
Clark was first elected to the state Assembly in 2008 when he garnered 58 percent of the vote to defeat an incumbent Republican, J.A. “Doc” Hines. He was re-elected by a margin of less than 300 votes in 2010, the year Republicans swept the Wisconsin Legislature.
“The 42nd Assembly District has always been viewed as a swing district. It’s relatively balanced between the two parties and when I won by a 16 percent margin in 2008, it was the biggest margin of defeat for an incumbent in the district’s history,” Clark said. “I believe that I held on in 2010 because a lot of independent voters realized that I was pragmatic and willing to work with the other party.”
Clark has been a contractor and the owner of Clark Forestry since 1995. Prior to that he was a forester and consultant for the state Department of Natural Resources and a forest ecologist for The Nature Conservancy.
Clark points to his experience as a business owner and a rural resident as part of his preparation to represent the people of the 14th Senate District.
“As someone who’s raised a son and had to make payroll every month as private employer, I know how hard it can be to support a family and make ends meet in today’s economy,” Clark said. “That’s why I’ve worked hard to support small businesses, and enhance economic development and the quality of life in rural areas.”
Clark said he called Olsen prior to announcing his candidacy in the recall race.
“We both agreed that we wish Wisconsin was in a different place right now,” Clark said.
In response to Clark’s announcement, Olsen said, “If Fred and his friends wish to run a race against me, I welcome the opportunity to prove that my plan of improving the economy by lowering taxes and balancing the state budget is just what Wisconsin needs to get people back to work.”