Wednesday, July 14, 2010
INTRODUCING: RON JOHNSON
On Saturday, May 22, 2010, a bombshell was dropped on the Wisconsin State Republican Convention in Milwaukee, and the explosion came from Ron Johnson, the conservative who'd thrown his hat into the ring just 5 days before. The Oshkosh businessman won the endorsement of the Party after 64% of the delegates had been wowed by the whirlwind courting affair with him in the days prior, all but ensuring the nation that he would be the candidate who could unseat Russ Feingold on November 3, 2010.
Dick Leinenkugel, the big name Wisconsin beer magnate who had been in the race for nearly 6 weeks, promptly dropped out prior to the vote and gave his support to Johnson. David Westlake still hung on; and Terrance Wall, the other Republican challenger, stepped aside a few days after the convention closed. So who is Ron Johnson?
Ron was born in Mankato, Minnesota on April 8, 1955. He moved to Minneapolis when he was 10-years-old and at an early age he started mowing lawns and shoveling driveways to earn money. He delivered papers, caddied at the local golf courses, and at one time even helped bale hay on his uncle’s dairy farm. He took his first official job the age of 15, as a dishwasher at a Walgreen’s Grill. He paid his own taxes and became the night manager before he was 16.
He met his wife, Jane, during his senior year of high school and attended college at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, living at home and paying his way the old-fashioned way, working full-time in order to pay for all of his college expenses. When he graduated in June 1977 with a BSB in accounting, he had $7,000 in the bank, and he married Jane on August 20th of that year. He took a job out-of-school as an accountant at a company called Josten’s a Manufacturer of school products: class rings, diplomas, Announcements, caps & gowns, all the while attending night school to earn his MBA. By 1979 he had completed all of the course work for his MBA except for his final thesis when another opportunity called. His brother-in-law, Pat, who had started a pallet manufacturing business in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and had the bold notion to convert the complex into a plastic sheet extrusion company. He invited Ron to help start the transition with him.
So in 1979, Ron and Jane moved to Oshkosh where Ron helped his brother-in-law start the business they called PACUR. Ron was the lone accountant and co-machine operator, trading 12 hour shifts with Pat during first year with the company until they could train other operators. Over 31 years, PACUR has grown from supplying a single customer of specialty plastic to the largest producer in the world. The majority of their plastics are used in medical device packaging and high tech printing applications. An American company in the proudest tradition, PACUR still likes to say: “We don’t export jobs, we export plastic.”
Ron and Jane’s first daughter, Carey, was born with transposition of the Great arteries. Ron then learned first-hand the great innovation and miracle technology available in the greatest health care system in the world. In having overcome her initial challenges and become a successful young woman, Carey, also has been witness to the birth of her siblings Jenna and Ben. As Ron and Jane’s raised their family, Ron took over sole-proprietorship of PACUR in 1997 and its growth continued to skyrocket.
Having the capital to help in sustaining a community, tax records recently released by Johnson campaign show that Ron and Jane have donated $2,195,495 to charity since 2005. RON JOHNSON
I interviewed Ron just recently at the Northern Wisconsin State Fair in Chippewa Falls and he was able to outline for me his campaign vision and the issues that were important to him in his fight to oust Russ Feingold.
1. YOU DECLARED YOUR CANDIDACY FOR THE US SENATE ON MAY 17 OF THIS YEAR. WHAT FACTORED INTO YOUR DECISION TO RUN AGAINST RUSS FEINGOLD?
What I always say is the final straw for me is when they passed the health care bill because I do view that as the greatest single assault on our freedom in my lifetime. I think that is true. I think it will lead to rationed care. I think it will dramatically to lower quality of care and we are not going to have the types of choices we have in terms of getting healthy care. I realize that our health care system isn't perfect but it is the finest health care system in the world. There is a reason that the Premiere from Newfoundland came down to America to receive his heart surgery. There are all kinds of news reports about people with brain tumors, who can't get MRIs in Canada, and they come to America. We are going to lose that. I supply into the medical industry. I know that America is the engine for medical innovation. This is where the advancements in medicine largely occur. This is where treatments are advanced, this is where medical devices are invented, this is pharmaceutical life-saving drugs are invented and when we harm that system, when we destroy that system, medical innovation is going to come to; maybe not a grinding halt, but it is not going to advance as we have grown accustomed too and the way that Americans want it.
2. YOU HAVE RUN YOUR OWN BUSINESS FOR 31 YEARS AND MADE IT EXTREMELY SUCCESSFUL. WHAT KINDS OF PERSPECTIVES AND QUALIFICATIONS DO YOU BELIEVE THIS WILL HELP BRING TO THE US SENATE?
Well when you do run your own business for 31 years, certainly what I've gotten out of it was an appreciation for the power and the wonder of the free market system. If are going to have a healthy economy, if we're going to continue be the society that has 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's goods, that’s because of freedom and the free market system. You need to have an appreciation of that. You need the perspective of somebody who understands that is what made America great.
Ron and Scott Walker, Republican Gubernatorial Candidate
3. WHAT WOULD YOU DESCRIBE AS RON JOHNSON'S CORE PRINCIPLES?
The other aspect of the health care bill is that it will add to the deficit, I mean it will not add dimes, it will add trillions. The example I always use is, you know, when they first passed Medicare. They estimated out 25 years in 1990 and said it was going to cost 12 million dollars, it cost 111 million dollars or almost 10 times the original number. So I think this health care bill will blow up an already broken budget. As conservatives, we didn't like seeing 2-, 3-, or 4-hundred billion dollar a year deficits. Now we're talking 1.5 trillion and we're talking a national debt of 13 trillion dollars, it is simply unsustainable and the career politicians like Russ Feingold have known this. They have known for decades and they have done nothing to solve other than to spend more money and to incur more debt, which is going to make it more difficult for us ever to solve these problems. The long and short of it, is the health care bill, in terms of assault on our freedom as well as what represents as far as worsening our already broken budget and at some point in time, people like me, people in the private sector have to take our perspective to Washington and actually take with them the desire to actually fix these problems. On the Military, people who serve in our Military over the generations, they are our finest and they deserve our support in long-term. The number 1 priorty of governments, the number 1 reason governments are formed; and you can go back to the caveman days, they got together to protect the clan, it was for protection and so the number 1 goal, the number 1 responsibility of our government is the defense of our nation, protect the people, securing our borders so that's where I stand in terms of the Military. It's one of the few things that government does well, because it has to, because it is our number 1 priority. In terms of social issues, I was just endorsed by the Wisconsin Right-to-Life. I do believe in the culture of life, I just do; Russ Feingold, unbelievable that a guy would vote for partial-birth abortions, that I find a particular barbarity. Certainly we need to do away with that as a really good, solid first step. I'm a very traditional human being and believe that a marriage is between a man and a woman - period.
4. SOME GRASSROOTS CONSERVATIVES ARE SUSPICIOUS ABOUT YOUR LATE ENTRANCE INTO THE RACE. CAN YOU DESCRIBE TO ME THE KIND OF CONSIDERATIONS YOU WENT THROUGH BEFORE DECIDING TO FULLY COMMIT TO THIS SENATE RUN?
Let me give you the quick history. I never even seriously thought about his. When I gave my TEA Party Speech in October, it wasn't because I was thinking about entering politics; after that speech, people were coming up to me and saying, "Hey, that's a really good speech, someone like you oughta consider running." I didn't even think about it really, until they passed the health care bill, and then all of the sudden those little comments made me think, "Well maybe someone like me should, because at some point in time someone like me has to get off of the sidelines in order to address these problems." I didn't even mention this to anybody until January 22nd during a chamber meeting and then it takes a couple of months to kind of start talking to people and set up meetings. What got me an endorsement, there is no conspiracy, what got me an endorsement I believe is before I decided to run I went and talked to talk radio hosts. I heard the way they weren't treating the current crop of Republican contenders very kindly and so I wanted to see what their reaction to me would be to me. I did meet with Charlie Sikes and before I went there I took copies of speeches I had given, the TEA party, and a Lincoln Day Dinner keynote address. Charlie, apparently, we got along pretty well, and then he liked those speeches to the point to where we read them on air for 16 minutes and we had that podcast and so we used that podcast before the conventions. We sent it out to the county chairs, we got it in the hands of delegates, and then for 2 days at the convention; I didn't set the rules I mean the vote was already scheduled for Sunday so we had Friday and Saturday for me to meet with delegates and I talked until I was hoarse, from 1:30 in the morning Friday and 1:30 in the morning on Saturday and I talked to a lot of people who had already heard the message, who had already heard my speeches read. Not only did we send out podcasts of those speeches but we sent out copies of those speeches, you know links, because we can use the Internet these days and so when we won that convention, people knew my message and I viewed that endorsement far more as an endorsement of my message than of me. Because, hey, I know I'm pretty new on the scene. The delegates there, a lot of them did meet me and I always ask people as I am on the campaign trail now, "I can't talk to everybody. If I've conveyed my character to you, if you're convinced, and you believe that I am sincere about wanting to fix these problems, sincere in my ideas and beliefs in those speeches I actually wrote, then spread the word," and I think those delegates in that convention did a good job of spreading the word.
Ron, his wife and daughters (left), with former Wisconsin Lt Governor Margaret Farrow and son Ben (right) at the State Convention
And that's what I'm relying on here in the State of Wisconsin during this campaign. I'm meeting up, I'm traveling all over, I am working hard. I am talking to as many people as possible. If somebody comes up to me now, they're seeing my TV ads, and before I get up to them they're saying, "Hey Ron Johnson, you've got my vote!" , the first thing I say is I thank them sincerely for that support and I say, "Help me get a hundred more." Because that's what's going to be required. We need the level of involvement, and commitment, and grassroots support and ground game unlike conservatives have ever done, because it's that important and I think people realize that. And the encouraging thing as I have gone about the state is that I don't if you're a Democrat, independent, a TEA party guy, or Republican people are just as concerned about the direction of this country than I am. They realize that there is something different going on here. This is whole magnitude of spending and debt unlike we've ever seen before and it is simply not sustainable so I've got a great deal of hope that something pretty good is going to happen this next election.
5. SUCCESS IN THIS RACE DEPENDS LARGELY ON TAKING THE MASK OFF OF RUSS FEINGOLD. WHAT ARE YOU AND YOUR CAMPAIGN DOING AND GOING TO DO TO EXPOSE WHO HE IS AS A LEFTIST AND SOCIALIST?
First of all, let me say, I agree that Russ Feingold is a very politically left person; he is as liberal as they come and he has an 18-year record now and people do know; it's not just you and me, that realize that when he has bucked his party is when it doesn't count. You know he'll buck his party on this finance reg. bill because he knows he is in deep trouble and he has an election ahead but when his party has needed him, and from my standpoint, yeah I'm running, but as an American citizen all I need to know about Russ Feingold is he voted for the health care bill, he was the 60th vote on that, and he voted for the stimulus, he was the 60th vote on that. That's all I need to know; that right there is damage enough, I don't need to know any more about the guy, I don't need to know what he prior to that. He voted the 862 billion dollar stimulus bill that already costs about 1 trillion with interest, that has done nothing, and 3 days before he voted on it he issues a press release saying that it would create 2.5 million jobs in its first year, 9 million jobs after 3, and that should show the people in Wisconsin this guy doesn't have a clue about what it really takes to create jobs. It isn't government, it isn't government spending, it isn't sucking money out of the private sector and turning it over to the government. And you're basically propping up states other than Wisconsin. That's one thing Wisconsinites have to realize is that when they take this money, when our Federal tax dollars go to Washington, it goes to California, it goes other places; you know we only get 86 cents of the dollar back from the federal taxes we give out to all of these other local and State governments and they're blowing it. And again, those aren't creating long-term sustainable jobs that actually do provide tax revenue and actually do create wealth and success and drive an economy.