Local Democrats prepare for GOP control

By Sari Lesk, Stevens Point Journal

STEVENS POINT - Jay Jackson worries for his wife and daughters in the Trump era.

A husband and father to two girls, he thinks about Republican efforts to de-fund Planned Parenthood and whether women will have access to affordable birth control after the Affordable Care Act is repealed and replaced. And he thinks about all the other demographics in the United States who worry about their well being as power in the country shifts to right wing leadership.

Jackson, 64, is one of the co-chairs of the Wood County Democratic Party of Wisconsin. On Saturday, one day after Trump's inauguration, Jackson will join thousands in Madison for a march in support of equal rights for all. The march will focus on women's rights, but also pushes for the rights for the LGBT community, people with disabilities and people of different religious backgrounds.

"Peaceful activism has always been a form of creating change and awareness," Jackson said. "Our elected officials sometimes are blind to what the people actually want. This is a chance for people to stand up and get noticed."

Like Jackson, Democrats across central Wisconsin are looking for ways to stay active rather than retreat quietly while they are represented for the foreseeable future by people they voted against. Along the new Republican president, the GOP holds 241 of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 52 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate. Four of Wisconsin's 12 members of Congress are Democrats. Back home, the state Senate has 20 Republicans and 13 Democrats; the Assembly has 64 Republicans and 35 Democrats. As the top administration in the country changes hands, local Democrats are calling on their peers get active and speak up to ensure their opinions and needs are heard.

"The more we make our voices known, the more we hold them to the fire, that's the only way things are going to change," said Nancy Stencil, the chairwoman of the Marathon County Democratic Party. "If you just cower and you go hide, then they've won the battle. We cannot sit back."

Stencil organized a bus to travel to the march in Madison this weekend, one of the ways she wants to make her voice heard to lawmakers. She encouraged her fellow Democrats to keep themselves informed of the issues and to get involved and called the election results a wake-up call to get and stay engaged.

Rep. Katrina Shankland, a Democrat who represents Assembly District 71 in Portage County, said she fears those who oppose Republican ideas will be deterred from speaking up because they think their views don't matter.

"We'll see an end to democracy as a result," she said. "I encourage people to constantly be involved. If anything, they need to double and triple down on their advocacy."

For her part, Shankland was appointed this session to the Joint Finance Committee and said she plans to use the leadership role as an opportunity to push for a budget that is fair to central Wisconsin. She said she wants to see a budget that invests in seniors, veterans and people with disabilities, as well as public education. She said she also wants to see lawmakers make a better effort to support growth in rural communities.

Republican state Sen. Patrick Testin said he encourages people who are concerned about the new administration to stay optimistic. The freshman senator, who replaces longtime Democratic Sen. Julie Lassa in the 24th Senate District, said he intends to stay engaged with his whole district, which includes a large left-wing base in Stevens Point. Testin beat Lassa in the 2016 general election 52 percent to 48 percent.

"At the end of the day, whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, we're all kind of on the same page," he said. "We all want what's best for our families, our community, our state and country. We just have different ways to go about it."

Testin said he will work to find common ground and will work with his Democratic colleagues to improve the state.

Stevens Point City Council member David Shorr said he isn't confident the new administration's ideas will move the nation forward. Shorr, a Democrat with a background in foreign policy,said he is worried about Americans' access to health care, denial of human activity's impact on climate change in the Republican party people' s ability to vote.

Like other active Democrats in central Wisconsin, Shorr said he encourages people to stay engaged.

"I've been thinking about how turned off by politics and issues people have gotten," he said. "It's the essence of democracy, that to figure these things out, we need people's attention and involvement."