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Neumann Facing His Fears

This past weekend, gubernatorial candidate Mark Neumann staged a press conference outside the Democrat state-party convention. Surrounded and outnumbered by liberal activists, he held his ground ready to discuss the issues. He was heckled and booed by a posse of Tom Barrett supporters, and yet Neumann graciously thanked them for their views and kept talking about smaller government and fiscal conservatism. Did that take political courage? I would certainly think so. But the irony should not be missed.

Neumann may be willing to go toe-to-toe with a crowd of liberal hecklers at their own convention, but he's unwilling to meet with the largest Hispanic newspaper in the state at his own campaign headquarters.

The Backdrop: Interviewing Gubernatorial Candidates

Not more than a month ago, El Conquistador interviewed gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker on a range of issues from immigration reform to job creation. Walker told the paper that he opposed Arizona's immigration bill because it usurped the rights of the federal government while likely breeding a predilection for racial profiling. A few weeks after the interview, Walker reversed his position announcing that new provisions in the Arizona bill safeguarded against racial profiling.

Ultimately, El Conquistador may fault Walker for his reversal, but we respect the fact that he had the backbone to meet El Conquistador to discuss immigration reform. Neumann, however, failed the political courage test. Last month, when the Associated Press prodded Neumann for answers about Arizona's bill, he declined to respond even though his opponents Tom Barrett and Scott Walker laid out their positions. It wasn't until after Walker took a lot of heat for his reversal that Neumann was willing to lay out a brief summation his viewpoints and only on his campaign website.

In the past two weeks, El Conquistador has called the Neumann campaign four times for an interview. Chris Lato, the communications director for Neumann's campaign, initially told El Conquistador that he would try to work us into Neumann's busy schedule. But since we last talked, he has refused to return our calls.

Playing it Safe on Immigration Politics

The issue, we believe, is that Neumann sees a danger in answering our questions. Hispanic issues are a particularly volatile topic in the country right now, and meeting with us might be viewed as unnecessarily risky. Answering questions about Arizona's immigration law, the callousness of mass deportation, the economic benefits of pathways to citizenship, and the equity of college tuition reimbursement are indeed risky for any politician. It's quite possible that Neumann didn't want to take that chance.

On Neumann's website, for instance, it says he opposes amnesty, in-state tuition reimbursement, and driver's licenses for illegals. However, he provides no insight on what he means by amnesty, why the children of illegal immigrants should bear the punitive burdens of their parents, or why it's a good policy to forbid undocumented workers the training to drive on public roads in a safe and responsible manner. An interview with Neumann would clarify some of these more important points.

Conclusion

In September of last year, Neumann met with Hispanics to discuss his candidacy for governor. He had answered a question posed by the son of illegal immigrants. The young man had problems getting financial aid because his parents didn't have social security numbers. At the time, Neumann stated it was a tough situation to be in and that as governor, he would certainly fix such problems in our education where the diligent were not rewarded. Neumann showed his more empathetic side, but then again he was also courting Hispanics.

After their exchange, I posed a question about what we could do about the illegal immigrants who are here, but do not plan to leave? I said that since the mass roundup and deportation of illegal immigrants was politically untenable for any party, we need to find fair ways of dealing with immigrants in such a way that it does not promote a permanent underclass. For instance, denying a kid tuition reimbursement because his parents decided to break border laws years before is not only unfair to the child, but it has the result of building a future underclass of individuals since the child does not have an equal opportunity to receive an affordable education.

We would like to know more about Neumann's views. Without an interview, however, all we are left with is conjecture. Right now, the ball is in Neumann's court. Does he want to interview with the state's largest Hispanic newspaper, or does he think that the Hispanic community is inconsequential to his gubernatorial campaign?

What do you say, Mr. Neumann? Are you interested in courting the Hispanic vote?

Comments (3)
  • Anonymous  - Obvious

    I'll give you a few reasons why Neumann obviously doesn't want to do an interview with you.

    1. No one reads your blog.

    2. You are a strong supporter of Walker.

    3. You've written several hit pieces on Neumann.

    Plus, your piece on Walker was a puff piece. You didn't ask him any difficult questions, like you say you'll ask Neumann... like "what he means by amnesty, why the children of illegal immigrants should bear the punitive burdens of their parents, or why it's a good policy to forbid undocumented workers the training to drive on public roads in a safe and responsible manner"

    If you want equal treatment by candidates, try treating them equally.

  • Aaron M. Rodriguez

    Anon,

    1. In March, I had 19,000 hits on my blog. And although it's not a spectacular accomplishment, it's more hits than any of the other conservative blogs in the state for that month.

    Also, I write for El Conquistador newspaper, which is the biggest Hispanic newspaper in the state. If Neumann wants to reach out to some Hispanic voters, he might want to reconsider the interview.

    And as an aside, some of the opinionated material that I publish on my blog does not get published in El Conquistador. It is no different than reading the various blogs of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporters, and yet the content and tone of their columns are surprisingly different.

    2. Yes, I'm a Walker supporter. I was also a Mark Neumann fan as well. My first article about Neumann, I wrote:

    Quote:
    "My first impression of Neumann was positive. He showed a strong grasp of educational issues, and his ideas about business operations were innovative to say the least. Neumann is a strong fiscal conservative, and I would feel comfortable with him in the governor's mansion."


    It wasn't until he started behaving strangely and running a poor campaign that I became somewhat critical.

    3. I haven't written anything about Neumann that has not been true. If you disagree, then perhaps you could identify something that I have written about Neumann that is demonstratively false.

    Also, keep in mind that Walker didn't wait for someone else to make a stand before publishing an immigration platform on his website. If Walker had posted on his website that he was opposed to amnesty, tuition reimbursement for illegals, or drivers licenses for undocumented workers, then it would have come up in my interview. Since it didn't, we discussed different issues like education and health care, which polls indicate are most important to the Hispanic community.

    Also, I have to contend with you that I didn't pose easy questions during the interview.

    First, Arizona's immigration law wasn't an easy question. In fact, Neumann took a pass on it the first time it was asked by the Associated Press. Unlike Neumann, Walker didn't take the "no comment" approach in our interview.

    Second, I asked him to explain why Barrett's surplus was higher than Milwaukee County's. That wasn't necessarily a softball.

    Third, I asked him to explain why he proposes a 0% tax levy every year in the budget when he knows that the board will provide him cover by raising taxes. That wasn't an easy one either.

    Fourth, I asked him to explain his recent actions involving the furloughing and cutting of county jobs and how that shouldn't be considered an assault on unions. That wasn't a terribly difficult question, but not a softball either.

    The bottom line is that if I want second and third interviews as a reporter, it would be in my best interest to do an equitable job in the first one. Also, it is not entirely beyond the realm of possibility that Neumann may win the primary. And if that were to happen, it would benefit me to ensure that my first interview was fair.

  • Zeus Rodriguez

    To Anonymous,

    You obviously don't understand much about politics or journalism and I find it quite ironic that you claim "no one" reads this blog yet YOU responded to it within 8 hours of publication.

    It's my bet that you are one of the young college groupies who volunteers for Neumann or a Liberal blogger who just wants to talk some trash... my vote is the former, I'll find out soon enough. Either way, neither is someone I would want to be right now.

    Good luck groupie!

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Hispanics for School Choice