WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- 7 Investigates conducted interviews with each of the five 7th Congressional District candidates between October 16 and 21, asking the same set of twelve issue and platform-based questions to each candidate, which included three Republicans and two Democrats. Click here for the complete methodology of the project. Tricia Zunker's interview occurred on October 18.
1. We’re seeing more and more issues get split along Party lines, which is leading to more issues deadlocked in Congress with no movement. What issue are you willing to cross party lines to address?
Well, I don't think that we have as much division here in the Seventh CD as some people like to think. As you know, I sit on the Wausau school board and we are nonpartisan seats, but individuals that identify as a different party than I, we actually tend to work better--very well together. When it comes to things that I'm willing to cross party lines for, what is going to make the most sense? I think that this is a common sense district. We have a lot of common sense issues ahead of us. Whether we're talking about affordable quality health care, whether we're talking about alleviating the crisis that our farmers are facing. These are things that are really important to me. These are things that are critical here in the Seventh CD. And I don't think that it is a party issue. It is simply what makes the most sense for the people here.
2. Is the tariff-based approach to dealing with Chinese trade practices the most effective solution for Wisconsin consumers and producers?
Absolutely not. I visited with the Soczka ginseng farm on Monday, the day I announced. And they are located in Edgar. It takes four years for the ginseng to grow. And I asked them, looking at the root that they're harvesting right now, did they anticipate when they planted this four years ago that they would find themselves in the economic situation that they are currently in? And they said overwhelmingly, absolutely not. It's one thing to say, "Hey, we're going to send a message and get tough on China." And it's another thing when you look families in the face, farmers in the face in our community, and see the direct impact it has on them, when they have to consider whether or not they're going to go bankrupt, whether or not they have to close down their farm. No, I am not for that approach. I am for protecting our farmers and our ginseng here in the Seventh CD and in the state of Wisconsin.
3. Dairy farms in Wisconsin are closing at a rising rate of hundreds per year. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s assessment that small family farms of 40 to 100 cows will likely go out of business. Do you agree with his assessment—and what legislation will you propose to address the dairy farming issue at a Congressional level?
Well, I know that visit was here recently, and there was a comment to the effect of the days of the small family farmer--you know, "We're past those days." I overwhelmingly and adamantly disagree with that. As the granddaughter of a dairy farmer, when I look around and see what's happening to our dairy farmers in this state and in this district, it breaks my heart. This great state has been built on the back of the labor of farmers. And we need to ensure competitive markets. We need to enforce any trust laws. We need to do what we can to ensure that our farmers have a fair shake. They're not looking for a handout. They're just looking for competitive markets, and somebody needs to be on their side. And that is somebody that I will be.
4. What’s your plan to continue to support Wisconsin’s low unemployment rate while addressing an aging workforce?
Well, we need to take control of this issue, and pay attention to our workforce and make sure that we are not overworking the populations that we do have. There's a lot of people that, the low unemployment--it sounds like it's low. But some of these individuals have more than one job. Because you know, the the job that they have isn't paying them enough. Just last week, there was an article in The Wausau Daily Herald, and it said that over 16,000 people in Marathon County alone don't know where their next meal is going to come from. These aren't people that are sitting there not working. These are people that are working one, two, maybe three jobs. So when we talk about the low unemployment rate, I want to make sure that we're talking about people that have jobs that are paying a fair wage, and that we're not skewing our numbers, first of all. So that's definitely a concern, making sure that when we talk about that low unemployment rate, who are we capturing in that amount?
And as far as the second part, addressing an aging workforce?
Well, I think that we have to really focus on educating our younger population. Trade schools--promoting our trade schools--we need to make sure that our students recognize that, the narrative that college is for everyone. That's the narrative I grew up with. I am a first generation college graduate. I was told, "Hey, you're going to college," by my parents who didn't have that opportunity. That's not the narrative anymore. We need to focus on trade schools promoting the skilled labor. It takes people in all different jobs for a thriving society. So I think that when we look at an aging workforce, we also have to look at what are we doing with our students and encouraging them to go into these different positions, these different jobs?
5. How do you plan to make healthcare more affordable for the American family?
Well, there's a number of things that we can do to ensure affordable quality health care. We need to lower the cost of prescription drugs. We need to make sure that individuals, families, that they have a choice. That they're empowered and making their own medical decisions. And we need to make sure that individuals with pre-existing conditions still have access to affordable quality health care. And I will be a vocal supporter of legislation that includes these critical items. I myself have a pre-existing condition. And you know, the idea that people with pre-existing conditions have to pay these mass amounts. That just--it's just wrong.
6. Our national debt hit 22 trillion dollars this year. How do you plan to reduce that debt—and does your plan include raising taxes?
Well, we need to reevaluate where the funds are going. Are we putting funds towards things that aren't necessary? And as far as taxes, who is being taxed? You know, the working class is being taxed disproportionately. I believe that the 1% needs to pay their fair share, and I would be an absolute supporter and proponent of legislation that would reduce the high--reduce taxes on the working class, certainly not raising taxes on the working class--and making sure that the 1% pays their fair share.
7. It’s been reported that hundreds of high-value ISIS detainees have escaped from prison in Syria. Do you support President Trumps withdrawal from Syria—and do you believe it sets the Islamic State up for a resurgence?
I don't think that we should have any reckless actions that potentially risk the lives of our troops. And I believe that those actions were taken, perhaps without full consultation with the generals and those with the best knowledge. I don't think that we should ever risk the lives of American troops, though.
So do you support that withdrawal?
I think that it was a quick action. And that when there are quick actions, there are a lot of risks to be had. And I don't support taking risks with our soldiers lives.
And to the second part of that question, is the escape of those ISIS detainees--is that setting the Islamic State up for a resurgence in your estimation?
Well, it's possible that they could reconvene at some location. That's certainly is something that could be a possibility.
8. The Supreme Court is expected to rule next June on the President’s move to strike down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. If they end the program, would you support Congressional actions to protect current Dreamers?
Absolutely, absolutely. Children that were brought here without their consent, that got an education that contributes to our society, that contribute to our economy, that came there without any choice of their own, and this is the life that they have known and the only life that they have known? I absolutely support that they should be able to stay here, and I support any legislation to help them pursue that path to citizenship.
9. In the past year, President Trump has pulled out of the Paris Agreement, and continues to roll back environmental regulations, and the far left has introduced proposals like the Green New Deal. Where do you fall on the climate change spectrum?
I firmly believe that we have to have clean air and clean water. And I will support legislation that ensures continued clean air, clean water, protecting our lands. Here in the state of Wisconsin, I want to make sure that our households, we have clean water. Nobody should have to be concerned that they can't drink the water coming out of their sink. We shouldn't have to worry about the air that that our children are breathing. So I firmly believe that we have to protect our environment.
10. Do you believe the President has done anything wrong in asking a foreign government to investigate political opponents?
That is an action that an individual who's taken an oath to uphold the Constitution should not be doing. That is a wrong action, and further fact-finding certainly is necessary. When somebody takes an oath to uphold the Constitution, we aren't talking about Republican or Democrat or anywhere in between. We're talking simply about a matter of constitutional duty.
11. We continue to see domestic terror incidents where perpetrators target their victims based on their differences. Do you believe violent political rhetoric plays a role in these cases, and do you believe your personal moral compass should impact who you align yourself with politically?
Well, when you talk about violent political rhetoric, this is something that I wish that we would not see in society. I'm a mother of a young child. I'm a school board president. And one of the things that we have to deal with is bullying. And we have to have strict bullying policies. In fact, I worked at great length revising the bullying policy here in Wausau with the Wausau School District. How can we sit here and tell our children that they shouldn't be bullying one another, and then we see adults that are saying horrible things, horrible things, just because we might have disagreements on a couple of issues politically? I think, by and large, most of us are more similar than we are different. But when we talk about violent political rhetoric, we have to set an example for our children. And personally, that's not a road I'm willing to take. I think it's wrong. I think it's an insult to the voters and to the public generally. I think let's focus on the issues and let's keep the negative attacks out of it.
12. What single thing do you want to have accomplished by the end of a full 2-year term?
Well, I think we need to have access to affordable and quality health care. Absolutely. I mean, if people don't have their health, then all these other things--you know, if you're not healthy, the other issues don't matter. Somebody shouldn't die because they can't afford insulin. Somebody shouldn't go bankrupt because they can't afford their prescription medication. Somebody shouldn't die because they can't afford their cancer treatment. Those things are wrong. They're wrong to me morally, they're wrong to me ethically, and so that is something I would work very hard towards.