The arrows have been unsheathed in the race to succeed Rep. Tammy Baldwin.
State Rep. Kelda Roys, D-Madison, called a press conference on Monday to attack her chief opponent in the race for the 2nd Congressional District, fellow Madison Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan, for his votes in favor of two bills last year that created a variety of business tax credits.
“When it really mattered, Mark Pocan failed the judgment test by voting for (Gov. Scott) Walker’s corporate tax giveaways,” said the second-term legislator in the Assembly parlor Monday morning. “The 2nd Congressional District needs a representative who will never cave on the issues that matter most to middle-class families.”
Roys described the tax credits Pocan joined all Republicans and many Democrats in supporting as exacerbating the state’s structural deficit, which then allowed Walker to push for deeper cuts to social programs. Specifically, she criticized Pocan for supporting putting an additional $25 million into an existing tax credit fund that she says had proven ineffective.
In addition, she said one of the bills, which offers firms moving into Wisconsin a two-year tax holiday, unfairly disadvantages companies already located within the state.
“Imagine running a small business and paying your fair share in taxes, and then all of a sudden, some out-of-state corporation moves his headquarters and sets up shop next door, competing against you, and he doesn’t have to pay taxes for two years,” she said. “That’s an outrageous thing to do to our Wisconsin businesses.
Roys contrasted what she portrayed as this failed vision of tax policy with a new approach for a “fairer, simpler and more progressive” tax system. Her proposals, which include raising taxes on the wealthy and capital gains, are similar to what Pocan has expressed support for in his campaign.
Although Roys has made veiled attacks against her Assembly colleague throughout the campaign, Monday marks the first time in which she has called him out by name, thus daring Pocan, who has pledged not to attack other candidates, to respond.
However, the Pocan campaign did not hesitate to respond Monday.
“It’s hard to reconcile Rep. Roys' record with her most recent attacks,” said campaign manager Dan McNally in statement.
For instance, McNally asserts, while the bill Pocan supported offering tax credits to firms that move into the state likely cost state government less than a million dollars in lost revenue (according to projections from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau), Roys has sponsored a number of bills that offer millions of dollars in corporate tax credits.
In addition, McNally says Roys voted to create the business development fund that she is now criticizing Pocan for approving additional monies for.
The fund was approved by the Legislature as part of the 2009-2010 budget, which Pocan, who was then co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, played a key role in writing.
“In 2009, I gave Mark Pocan the benefit of the doubt, but two years later it was clear that program failed,” Roys said later Monday, pointing out that only $2 million of the $75 million originally appropriated for the fund was awarded to qualifying businesses over the following 18 months.
She also defended her support of various tax credits, saying that she is willing to explore any measure if it is “reasonably tied to the creation of high-paying jobs.”
The candidates have been sparring for months over who is running the “cleanest" campaign. Pocan originally asked the other Democratic candidates to promise not to attack each other; Roys countered by challenging Pocan to decline contributions from corporate political action committees.
Neither candidate obliged their opponent’s request.
The other two candidates in the race were dismissive of the tiff between the two front-runners.
“To me, typical politicians attack each other on little issues like this, they don’t provide real solutions,” says Matt Silverman, a 30-year-old attorney and Iraq War veteran whose 540-mile walk across the 2nd Congressional District I recently profiled.
“If the voters think Washington D.C. is doing fine, then they have two career politicians to choose from. If they think that partisan politics is holding us back, then I offer something different,” he says.
The fourth candidate, Dennis Hall, says it's up to voters to decide the relevance of various issues, from clean campaign pledges to acceptance of corporate PAC contributions.