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May 19 / Elizabeth DiNovella

Snapshot from the Wisconsin GOP State Convention

Stig Rahm is the Columbia County Chairman of the GOP. I spoke to him on May 12 at the Wisconsin State Republican Convention held in Green Bay.

Columbia County lies due north of Dane County. It encompasses small towns such as Portage, Lodi, and Pardeeville, along with the Wisconsin Dells. The county’s western border includes the Wisconsin River.

Over the past sixty years, the county has grown more Democratic. However, in recent elections, Republicans have won. It may be considered a swing county, but it has a tiny population.

In 2004, the county voted for Bush/Cheney, 50.6% (Kerry/Edwards got 48.4%).

In 2008, Columbia County voted for Obama/Biden, 57.4% (McCain/Palin got 42%).

In 2010, the county swung back to the red and supported Scott Walker.

“Columbia County did vote for Governor Walker, but it was a spread of 200 hundred votes out of 22,000,” Rahm told me. “It was very close.”

Q: What sort of get out the vote efforts are you doing?

Stig Rahm: We are doing the standard stuff, the phone calls, and the emails, to get the vote out. We’re getting out at least one mailing in Columbia County. And we are reminding all our friends and neighbors that it’s important to get out there. We need people out there. One of the great things that has happened in the last year is that we have impassioned people, on both sides. And it’s about time.

Q: Are folks in Columbia County pretty energized?

Stig Rahm: Yes, they are. We have two offices, and we’ve had more people come in that have never come in before saying, “We want to help. We want to be involved.” It’s been amazing. Every day new people come in and say, “I’ve never done this before, but . . .” So it’s been very nice to see.

Q: What do you think is going to happen on June 5th?

Stig Rahm: I think it’s going to be the largest turnout in state history for a gubernatorial race. I’m very hopeful and confident we will prevail and Governor Walker will stay in office.

Q: Are people in your county mad the recall is happening?

Stig Rahm: Absolutely, on both sides. It’s been a distraction for the real problems in the state and in the nation. And not only that, it certainly has been divisive for a lot of people. From my perspective, all conservatives, Republicans are angry about the recall. But we’ve also had a number of Democrats who have said, “We think it’s not right.” A recall should not be done because you disagree with the person who is in office. It really should be done for malfeasance, for criminal activity, for a serious issue. In my mind, this has bastardized the whole recall process.

Q: Are you a businessman?

Stig Rahm: I am.

Q: And what’s the biggest challenge facing small businesses right now?

Stig Rahm: There are several issues. One is uncertainty. Businessmen and businesswomen, they figure it out. OK, this is what we have ahead of us. How are we going to deal with it? With uncertainty, we can’t.

Health care reform—that’s a huge uncertainty for small businesses. And it’s a cost we don’t want to bear unnecessarily. I believe there are many solutions to the problem, and it’s not at the federal level.

Q: What do you think the best solution is?

Stig Rahm: One of the best solutions would be to allow health insurance companies to operate across state lines. Allow for people to say, “I want to deal with that company over there that gives me the price I want.” Competition reduces costs. Without competition, it gets crazy.

Another issue with health care is: How do we take care of those who can’t take care of themselves? It’s a necessity. And I am tired of the implication that conservatives don’t want to help people. That’s nonsense. Just look at our charitable giving. We are out there. We are helping. But we want to help people help themselves. In other words, give them a hand up, not a hand out.

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