WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- 7 Investigates conducted studio 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. Michael Opela's interview was conducted 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?
Probably most prevalent for me would be social security. The Republican party takes a pretty hard stance on social security, and their idea of getting rid of social security. And as a businessman, I've paid into social security for a long time. I don't want to see social security go away. I'd like to get that return on my investment, and I'd like to see it fixed.
2. Is the tariff-based approach to dealing with Chinese trade practices the most effective solution for Wisconsin consumers and producers?
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 don't know that I know all the details, to be honest with you, in this conversation related to the dairy farms. Just general conversation amongst my neighbors, because we live in Edgar on a small farm, has been that a lot of dairy farms are closing related to pricing. But it's a big part of it is that the generations aren't interested in taking over, and even my neighbor has been less willing to see his children get into farming. So I would hope to do whatever it takes to encourage the generations to want to be part of farming, and then whatever it takes to create better markets--or new markets. I work in the agriculture industry now and the hemp market is becoming very prevalent, and a market that a lot of farmers are looking at.
And to the first part of that question, do you agree with Sonny Perdue's assessment that small farms of 40 to 100 cows are going to go out of business in Wisconsin? Do you agree with that assessment?
I don't know Sonny Perdue, sorry. I don't have any response to what Sonny Perdue has said.
Do you know who he is?
He's the Secretary of Agriculture.
4. What’s your plan to continue to support Wisconsin’s low unemployment rate while addressing an aging workforce?
That's interesting, because in coming here, we have a real issue with enough people to work. And we have a lot of jobs that are available that people aren't taking. So we're going to have to look to create jobs that are more attractive for people. I'm not sure that Foxconn was the best answer.
5. How do you plan to make healthcare more affordable for the average American family?
Well, the health care plan needs to be actually looked into. When Obama created the health plan and then got it passed, I was disappointed that he did not create some sort of oversight group to monitor what happened with the insurance companies that are participating in that health care plan. The premiums have gotten to a level that you're paying another mortgage, just for your health insurance. So it's going to need to be corrected. It's going to need to be changed. And that legislation has been difficult to get through. So right now with the infighting that's occurring in the House, we've got to win back these seats, take control of the House and then do something to change that plan.
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?
I don't know that I have a plan to reduce that debt. I don't think I would vote for anything that adds to that debt. I think I would vote for a balanced budget amendment, and push to see whatever programs we can change to help pay for that. I'm not an advocate of increasing taxes.
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 really don't have an answer for that one.
You don't know if you support Trump's plan to withdraw from Syria?
I don't know enough about what's going on in Syria, to be honest with you. Personally, I'm not interested in spending any more time overseas in that part of the country. I'm not an advocate of any of the wars that were taken on over there. I don't think they were taken on for the right reasons. And we've spent a lot of money defending that part of the country that we don't have. You just asked me a question about $22 trillion in debt. Well, we financed all these wars and gone $22 trillion in debt. I don't know how we keep doing that. And I don't know how we benefit from what's going on over there, and sending our troops over there to die.
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?
I don't think people who come here illegally should be protected by any other laws that we have in place for people who are here legally. We have an issue to deal with, and that is people who are coming here and crossing the border illegally. There's a reason they're crossing the border. So we have to address that issue to stop that. I'm not--they need to probably go back home and then apply just like everybody else has. I'm third generation Polish coming into this country, and my family came in here legally.
And just to clarify your answer, with Dreamers who are children born to illegal immigrants, your answer applies to them as well or just immigrants coming illegally?
Families who come here illegally need to go back and then apply and come into the country legally.
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 think climate change is inevitable. And I think that the battle to fight climate change doesn't help us. It doesn't help our economy; it doesn't help us deal with the $22 trillion we're in debt. Do I think it's important to manage what we do related to the environment? Absolutely. My family came here, as I said third generation from Poland. We worked up on the Iron Range, we had saw mills, we logged, and we farmed, and we did it in a way that maintained the environment. And I think we need to work on doing those types of things. But I don't think it's necessary that every move that we make needs to be legislated, or that we're going to somehow stop climate change because we create new legislation.
10. Do you believe the President has done anything wrong in asking a foreign government to investigate political opponents?
I don't know that I know enough about that question to answer, because I don't even know if I agree that he has.
Okay, do you want me to specifically explain the question or would you like to keep moving?
If you'd like more of an answer? Sure. You can explain it more.
[It's specifically referencing the president's request of Ukraine, which prompted the impeachment inquiry…]
Yeah, I understand what's in the media about this issue. I'm not sure I believe what's in the media about this issue. I would have to see more about it in hand, then I can answer as to what the media is covering, or what the Democratic Party is portraying as what happened.
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?
I guess the first thing that comes to mind is my disappointment with what happened at the Trump rally. You know, the idea that people are congregating because they believe in Donald Trump, and when they leave, they're attacked as they leave, and actually physically attacked as a result of that interaction is very concerning for me. So if I'm going to align my moral compass, I'm going to align my moral compass with the idea that as a society, we need to be a lot more tolerant. And we need to remember that everybody has an idea or an opinion. That's what the whole First Amendment's about. And they need the right to be able to express that opinion without fear of some sort of physical or harm coming to them.
[Clarification that he is referring to rally in Minneapolis]
Yes. To be honest with you, it's ongoing. I mean, it goes from that simple idea to, yes, the other extreme ideas where people are going after each other because of the way they think or the way they act or the way they believe they want to be sexually. All kinds of different issues that come up for people. I don't know that aligning myself as a moral compass is the way I would put it. So if I'm having a hard time answering that question, it's simply because I don't believe that we should act in that way at all.
12. What single thing do you want to have accomplished by the end of your 2-year term?
So an answer to the idea that I would be reelected for the two years. The thing that I would like to try to get accomplished in that timeframe is addressing social security and addressing any issues that come up related to the Constitution.