Former Wittenberg teacher challenging Cowles

Powers seeking state Senate seat
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A former Wittenberg teacher who made two unsuccessful bids for the state Assembly is now setting his sights on the state Senate.

Democrat John Powers issued a press release Wednesday officially announcing his challenge to Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, in the District 2 race in November.

“This will not be an ordinary campaign,” Powers said. “It is time for someone to say the emperor has no clothes.”

Cowles won his Senate seat in a special election in 1987 and has been re-elected every four years since 1988.

“In this time of drastic cuts to our public schools, a state agency that gives hundreds of millions of our tax dollars to businesses that fail to create jobs, and a complete gutting of the authority of the DNR, you would hope someone with that kind of seniority would be a voice for reason,” Powers said. “Instead of being part of the solution, our senator is part of the problem.”

Powers pointed to Cowles’ recent proposal on high capacity wells, Senate Bill 291, which, Powers said, would remove all decision making from the DNR and turn it over to the legislature.

Powers also criticized the increase in tax dollars going to private schools, and policies that allow elected officials to be exempt from prosecution for political corruption and allow gag orders on state employees.

“We are better than this,” he said. “Our children and grandchildren deserve better than this.”

Powers said he will not accept any donations for his campaign.

“More than 70 percent of the people in this state feel that Citizens United should be repealed,” he said. “Yet we continue to allow money to be the deciding factor in our elections, even at this level. I will not participate in an auction.”

Powers served four years in the military, including a year in Vietnam. After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, he taught in Shawano County schools for 31 years while spending 15 years as a Boy Scout leader. For the past 10 years he has worked as a unit coordinator in an emergency room.

He unsuccessfully challenged State Rep. Gary Tauchen for the District 6 Assembly seat in 2008 and 2012.

Cowles responded Wednesday by saying he plans to run a positive campaign and is proud of his record.

“I have nothing to apologize for,” he said.

Cowles said he has always been a fiscal conservative and budget hawk who has pushed to keep state budgets free of policy-making.

“I voted against the last one because there were policies in it,” he said. “I’m an independent thinker and I’ve taken independent positions when I thought it was important.”

Cowles noted he broke with Gov. Scott Walker on some DNR issues.

“I fought to keep the DNR Board,” he said.

Cowles said he has also worked to get a better deal on aids for public schools, has been a leader in workforce development and environmental issues, and an advocate for transparency in government.

Cowles was also asked whether he thought that having presidential candidate Donald Trump at the top of the GOP ticket this fall might have an impact on the Senate race.

“I’m one of those people who has been wondering about that. I don’t know,” Cowles said. “You just have to do what you think is right and let the people decide.”

Cowles said he supported Ohio Gov. John Kasich during the Republican primary, but voters went in a different direction.

“They picked Mr. Trump, and we have to respect that and rally around, even if a lot of us didn’t want him,” Cowles said.

Cowles said he believes his record and his reputation in the district will be a bigger factor in the Senate race than the candidate at the top of the ballot.