Election Day is just hours away. In these final moments before the electorate votes on who will guide Wisconsin, I am reaffirming why I am asking my neighbors for their support. I am running for Assembly because I believe in a government that works for all of us, not just a few.
When my grandma passed away a few years ago, it was time for my mom and her siblings to clean out her house. In the kitchen pantry they found stacks of plastic containers; margarine tubs, whipped cream containers, things from the grocery store deli. All washed and neatly stacked on a shelf, corresponding lids sitting close by. My grandparents lived through the Great Depression. And they became savers. They carried with them the feeling that it could always happen again.
I was in college in 2008, when the economy crashed and ushered in the Great Recession. I watched from the safety of the classroom as workers across the country lost their jobs; I watched older workers lose pensions and have their planned retirements slip away; I watched as families had their homes foreclosed; I watched as people lost everything and had to start from scratch. And I watched as the people responsible got bonuses, golden parachutes as they quietly disappeared from the trouble they had caused.
I graduated in 2010 with almost $28,000 worth of student loan debt into one of the worst labor markets our country has experienced. My generation became one that has more in common economically with our grandparents than our Baby Boomer parents. And I too carry with me a feeling that it could always happen again.
I also watched in dismay as my own government actively worked against a Wisconsin reeling from an economic downturn. Instead of bolstering worker’s rights and protections, the Walker administration attacked unions, specifically the teachers unions, resulting in lower pay and a reduction in benefits for a whole sector of workers.
I watched as UW funding was slashed, ensuring that tuition costs would continue to rise, that programs would be cut, and that faculty and staff wages would remain stagnant. I watched as nearly $800 million was cut from K-12 public education funding, hurting one of Wisconsin’s greatest assets and shifting the cost to property owners across the state; since 2010, 286 public school referendums have been passed as local communities struggle to keep their public schools funded at appropriate levels.
I watched as our state government refused millions of dollars of federal money to expand Medicaid due to partisan grandstanding. I watched as Republicans at state and federal levels tried for eight years to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, a bill that while not perfect, helped to insure and protect so many people who had never had health coverage before. Most recently, I watched Wisconsin join in a lawsuit suing the US government in an effort to repeal the ACA. I watched my opponent vote NO on Bill AB363, a bill that would have explicitly prohibited pre-existing condition exclusion and premium surcharges based on pre-existing conditions.
I’ve watched tax cuts at state and federal levels disproportionately benefit the wealthy. I’ve watched power continue to shift from workers to corporations in ways that I fear will never be reversed. I’ve watched as politicians have unfairly redrawn districts across our state to favor one side or the other, effectively stifling the voice of the people. I’ve watched money infiltrate our electoral process in ways that are downright disgusting. Voter suppression is a thing that’s happening in 2018.
But I’ve also watched something remarkable happen. I’ve watched ordinary people stand up to right these wrongs; and I’m honored to be one of them. So many people across Wisconsin are done watching. We’re ready to act. I’m ready to act. I’m running for the Assembly to represent people, plain and simple.
Sincerely, Alyson Leahy, Wausau
85th Assembly District Candidate
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