Editor's Note: The following is the full transcript of answers provided by candidate Stephen Ratzlaff Jr., during an interview held on June 21. Ratzlaff is an independent candidate for the July 13 special election for Wisconsin's 37th District Assembly seat.
How’s campaigning going?
Basically, I've been trying to talk to reporters, going out to meet people--I meet a lot of people in my neighborhood, but as far as other things, it’s hard. I don’t know what’s open and what’s not, because of COVID, there are still a lot of restrictions, though I assume not as many in Dane County.
I just try to meet as many people as I can and meet as many people as I can, because I don’t have a party behind me. I’m doing it all myself. I have a co-worker who is sort of my campaign manager, and she helps me put things together and things like that. But I call myself a one-man wrecking crew, right?
One of the big issues today is property values and that in DeForest and Windsor people are being priced out of the villages and that property taxes--whether the exact figure of the tax rate or the valuation that the rate is taxing…
I personally feel like the market is either going to have a bubble that is going to pop, or it’s going to have to slow down, because this can’t sustain itself. I don’t know how people can afford these home values, but as far as property taxes, I do support the state imposed property tax limits. Because I think that property taxes are already high enough.
Reflecting on a resolution passed by the Windsor Village Board earlier this year, would you support legislators revisiting the shared tax revenue for municipalities?
I don’t have a problem with it. If they’re going to revisit it, I don’t have a problem with it. But, like I said, I don’t support them taking the property tax cap off. I believe that the municipalities are only able to raise the property taxes so much. So, I agree.
I think that people pay enough for property taxes as it is. And that is one thing with the Republicans, I would say that I am definitely on board with that.
Revisiting the opioid crisis that was well publicized a few years ago, it would appear that we did not fix it, but that it does remain an issue.
I think there needs to be so much money set aside for treatment or drug diversion programs, but at the same time if there are people who are known to be dealing this stuff, they need to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
The pushers--is that what we call them?--The dealers need to be dealt with quickly, but people who are abusing drugs, or want to be off of the drugs, but they can’t, I would say if they are first time offenders, they need to be put into some type of drug treatment or drug diversion program to get them off the drugs.
Noting that many treatment programs at the time were funded through grants, there was a lot of innovative, grassroots work, but that also meant those groups were constantly hustling for funding either to renew or replace that funding when it would run out.
I think the state should take a look at how they fund these. It’s the same thing with prisons, isn’t it? Do the Republicans or the Democrats really think that building more prisons and locking people up is the answer? I’m not one of those people who is ‘soft on crime,’ because that goes into the whole ‘social justice nonsense’ and I don’t go for that because I think that people should be held accountable for their actions. And from what I’ve seen in Dane County, a lot of them aren’t.
Remember with the D.A. weren’t they camped out on his lawn, knocking on his window, and stuff like that? And this guy is about as liberal as they come. So what exactly is it that I’m missing, is this guy not crazy enough for all these people down there at Freedom Inc.? Basically what I’m trying to say is: crazies to the left of me and crazies on the right, crazies all around me. Both sides are driven by the extremists in their party and there’s nothing left in the middle.
I would consider myself a centrist or a moderate. People should be beholden to ideas, not to parties.
Would you support an increase in education funding to bring it to that minimal threshold for federal funding from COVID relief support?
Yes and I do support two-thirds school support from the state. They were talking about this back in the 1980s. This was one of Governor Thompson’s goals, or issues at the time, and I don’t think the state ever achieved it. They’re talking about it now, but I believe that it is some sort of shell game that they’re playing at the Capitol. [Sarcastically] I know, it’s hard to believe, isn’t it? People are saying one thing and doing another.
I do support the two-thirds funding at the state level, but I also support the property tax cap--you have to keep it all in check, and people need to be smart with the money that they have.
Another thing for me is the gasoline tax. The gasoline tax was tied to the rate of inflation and reset on the first of April of every year from the years 1985 until 2006. It was a Republican Secretary of Transportation, I believe, and Democratic Governor Tony Earl. And then for some reason in 2006 Governor Doyle signed something that repealed it. So now, the money is not the same, obviously, because we’re not tying it to the cost-of-living index, and now, as you can see, the roads are still crumbling, and you don’t have enough money to fix them. Plus you have electric cars and hybrids coming online now, so there is going to be less and less money coming in from the gas tax.
Now to listen to these people on the right, including Senator Jagler--and this isn’t limited to him, also the Madison City Council, and Dane County Board of Supervisors--if they think the roads are going to fix themselves, I can assure you they are not. These people are playing a game and you know what it’s called? Kick the can...kick the can down the road.
I don’t know why these people are so hesitant to fix the roads. Rich people, poor people, white people, black people, old people, young people, we all use the same roads. The roads are falling apart, the bridges are falling apart, the federal gasoline tax has not been raised since 1993 and it stands at 28 cents a gallon--that’s not going to keep up. I don’t know if you saw on the news, they just said that would be a non-starter. I can’t wrap my head around what the problem is.
And they’ve been talking about tolls for years, and you know what the Republicans’ line is? Well, it will take three years, it will take four years...because they say we can’t get it right away. How many years have they been saying this? Six, eight, ten. Are they just going to sit around twiddling their thumbs like Rome is burning?
It’s just ridiculous. And getting Dane County to talk to the Highway Department--they’re not much help. And the City of Madison, they can’t do anything. You ever notice when you come in on East Wash, near Highway 51 and you’re in that middle lane? Where the concrete is buckled up by Walgreens over there? It’s terrible and I’ve called in for two years straight. Do you think they fixed it? No. We have money for everything else, but we don’t have money to fix that.
I don’t get it. And that’s one of the reasons I’m running. Because I got tired of just calling people and not only did I get a song...but I got a song and a dance. What you see is what you get.
This is where I would do better in person, because you have to listen. There are no strangers, but friends you haven’t met yet. That’s how I look at it, but it serves me well. I just like people.
But it seems like some people, once they get in elected office, they don’t have time to be bothered with their constituents. Now if you’re a lobbyist with a lot of money…
Would you support a measure for non-partisan redistricting?
Let me be clear, that I support the reintroduction of AB303 or SB288. They would have to be reintroduced because they were in the last session. I support fully non-partisan--non-Democratic, non-Republican--redistricting. So for the record, Tony Evers, and Jon Erpenbach and Gordon Hintz, and Robin Vos and Jim Steineke, and John Jagler, should not be drawing their own lines.
And when they say ‘The Constitution requires it,’ does the Constitution require that they go across the street to a law office, lock the doors, sign an oath of secrecy, not let anyone in and draw the districts?
It’s ridiculous. And that goes both ways too. That’s the same reason a Republican will never get elected in Dane County. It cuts both ways. It’s that same thing as with the election. I personally believe--personally--that President Trump lost the election. I voted for him. Maybe somebody should have taken his phone away. Somebody should have taken his Twitter account away.
I don’t see what the problem is with the whole election thing. Now on the other side, this whole Democracy in the Park? Give me a break.
Don’t tell me this wasn’t a ploy for Democratic votes. You think they were collecting ballots in Madison parks to elect Donald Trump? Democrats funded, what, the five largest cities in the state--that’s what they’re talking about, right? The funding?--The Republicans are saying there should be no private money that should go to help municipalities with their elections. I agree with that.
I’m sure they were collecting ballots in Madison parks because they wanted to help President Trump, oh sure. What I’m trying to say is that I don’t know where this ‘widespread fraud’ is coming from.
Are legislators obligated to have as positive of a voter turnout as possible?
I personally say yes, of course. I think it should be easier for people to vote, not harder. But at the same time, if--and they said there were 37 cases of voter fraud in the state?--so if they find cases and people were knowingly violating the law? Prosecute them.
I must seem kinda tricky, right? I must sound like a Democrat sometimes, right?
That’s what I got when I talked to several Democratic people whose names shall remain nameless. Because with all this nonsense that went down last summer with the, what was it called? A protest? I don’t believe that. Lighting cop cars on fire, smashing windows, was it Fontana’s that was cleaned out on State Street? What does that have to do with social justice? I don’t get it.
That’s where I split with those people. Because I think they should be held accountable for their actions. That’s one thing that I don’t get with this whole--I know what a big thing it was for the Republicans when they had their primary and they were all tripping over themselves to run to the right of Ghengis Khan--this Critical Race Theory. At the state level they’re trying to ban it and I don’t think that’s really necessary.
Should people know what their school boards are doing? Yes, of course. And I think they should deal with it case-by-case on a local level. But if they’re teaching us that we’re all a bunch of hood-wearing, Confederate flag-waving, knuckle-dragging white supermacist hillbillies, I don’t go for that.
When I did an interview with the WisPolitics guy, he asked about the transgender bill and asked, ‘Do you support it?’ And I said, yes, to the extent that there should be boys sports and girls sports, and if there’s people that are--I don’t even know what the politically correct term is,--in the gray area or whatever you want to call it, there should be co-ed.
Because if you look, especially in track-and-field, some of these boys that identify as girls, there’s no comparison. If you look at some of the womens’ Olympic times for the mile and stuff, and then you look at the top ten high school boys, you know their times are faster, right?
I said there should be boys, girls and co-ed. It must have been a topic, or maybe it was just in Watertown.
Either I’m getting old, or the world is a lot different now.
What would be a reasonable amount of time to wait to vote?
Fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes to a half hour. That seems reasonable doesn’t it? It shouldn’t take any longer than that.
How do you look at DeForest’s relationship with the city of Madison?
Me, I don’t want to live in Madison because of the politics, but I like DeForest. I think it’s a nice community, I think it’s a quiet community, I think it’s a safe community. I appreciate our local elected officials, because I think they do a good job. But I think a big problem is that, it goes back to the gerrymandering, we are split up three ways. And I think that was done intentionally to dilute our power as a city.
If I could change one thing about DeForest, I think there should be more building. People will say that Sun Prairie has this or Sun Prairie has that and we don’t have any of that stuff. So why we don’t, I really don’t have an answer to that. I think that we should have more things, but obviously it would have something to do with the village board, right? They just don’t want to have the problems that go with it.