© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Michels reference to 'lazy people' one of the unexpected moments in Wisconsin's only governor debate

Wisconsin Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels, left, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers prepare for a televised debate Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, in Madison, Wis.
Morry Gash
Wisconsin Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels, left, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers prepare for a televised debate Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, in Madison, Wis.

The only scheduled debate in the Wisconsin governor's race included some unexpected moments Friday night.

Democratic incumbent Gov. Tony Evers and Republican challenger Tim Michels squared off for nearly an hour in Madison at an event sponsored by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association. Numerous radio and TV stations carried the debate, as did the website WisconsinEye.

One unexpected remark came during the answer to a question on reducing the worker shortage in some occupations and communities, and the possibility of a larger worker shortage in Wisconsin over the next decade.

Michels, who runs the Michels Corporation — a large construction business near Fond du Lac, said he has two solutions.

"Number one, we're going to get people off of their couches and get them back to work. We created an entire class of lazy people during COVID, and it's time to get them back engaged in our economy and stop sending them the unemployment checks, the COVID subsidy checks, which I know are now gone. But they were getting them, and that's how they got lazy," Michels said.

The businessman said his other solution is tax reform "to make Wisconsin a much more attractive place to live."

Evers, who has proposed additional tax cuts for the state, responded to Michels concerns about laziness. The governor said: "I'm still trying to battle the issue of 'lazy Wisconsinites' when we have so few people unemployed in the state of Wisconsin."

The state's current unemployment rate is about 3%, hitting historic lows earlier this year.

Evers answered the worker shortage question by saying he steered about $100 million in federal funds during the COVID-19 pandemic into Workforce Innovation Grants to develop long-term solutions to the state's workforce challenges.

"They come up with great ideas. Some are about up-skilling people to make sure they have the skills for advanced manufacturing. People are going to be putting more affordable housing up, making more child care available. Those are the things we need to do," Evers said.

>> Learn more about the candidates here.

On another issue, Evers questioned Michels' promise to divest himself from the Michels Corporation if the Republican is elected governor. "I'm sure they're (the corporation) going to continue to seek bids from the state of Wisconsin. How do we know how that's actually going to work? Do we need to change the process so that isn't a problem? I think it's going to look kind of fishy," Evers said.

Michels said, "I will do the right thing here and the people of Wisconsin have no concerns."

Michels also took a swipe at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, when responding to a question about climate change. The Republican questioned the extent to which human activities are leading to climate change. But he promised to be "a bold leader and make sure we do all of the right things. I'm going to make sure we work with the DNR, and by the way, the DNR has a lot of problems. It's probably close to being broken. I'm going to fix that."

Evers later responded, "I heard my opponent slam the DNR for a few minutes there." He went on talk about how Natural Resources Board member Fred Prehn, appointed by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker, won't leave the board though his term has expired, teaming with the Republican-controlled state Senate to block an Evers appointee from being able to cast key votes on natural resource matters.

"That's crazy," Evers said, saying it will take another three years to set standards on a type of chemical pollution known as PFAS because Prehn has not left the DNR Board. "That's the dysfunction," he added.

Evers and Michels also maintained their months-old disagreements on education, crime, abortion rights and state reaction to the August 2020 disturbances in Kenosha following the police wounding of a Black man, Jacob Blake, Jr.

Wisconsin's midterm elections are Tuesday, November 8, 2022. If you have a question about voting or the races, submit it below.


Related Content