Jeff SmithJeff Smith thinks there’s too much outside money in politics and the result is elected officials who listen to the wishes of their contributors rather than to the needs of their constituents.
By: Judy Wiff, The Republican Eagle
Name: Jeff Smith
Hometown: Eau Claire
Family: Wife Sue, two daughters in college
Education: Eau Claire North High School
Professional background: Former, longtime owner of Bob Smith Window Cleaning
Previous elected office: Wisconsin Assembly, 2007-2011; chairman, town of Brunswick, 2001-2007
Jeff Smith thinks there’s too much outside money in politics and the result is elected officials who listen to the wishes of their contributors rather than to the needs of their constituents.
Smith is hoping to regain the 93rd Assembly District seat he held for two terms but lost to Warren Petryk two years ago.
The district he is campaigning in now is stretched out so far it extends from central Eau Claire County, through Dunn and Pepin counties and across Pierce County to the Mississippi River.
“If you listen to what people tell you, (the main issues are) people don’t work together and they’re afraid of losing their health care,” said Smith.
For his part, he believes the inability of elected officials to cooperate goes back to the fact that there’s too much outside money in politics.
He advocates public funding of campaigns and full disclosure of who is paying for political ads.
“Democracy is absolutely being trampled right now because voters are confused and angry,” he said, adding that it’s the intent of issue-ad groups to keep voters that way.
While in the Assembly, Smith chaired the Committee on Elections and Campaign Reform. In that job, he says, he made sure to include the Republicans in discussions of bills, to ask them for ideas and to offer amendments if they wanted.
“Everything brings us back to campaign reform,” he said, noting that politicians often feel obligated to their donors.
“I’m not a career politician,” said Smith, remembering a complaint he heard from a man while campaigning before the last election.
“I have (run for office) for only one purpose — that I feel I have something to give,” said Smith.
Smith said the biggest worry he hears from voters is about health care. He said he also is concerned about efforts, such as the voucher system, that divert money from public education.
Smith said he deplores candidates who are seen in the district only during campaigns.
During the two terms he served, he held 50 listening sessions around the district each term.
“When they had an issue, they didn’t have to drive to Madison to tell me about it. They didn’t have to call me at home,” said Smith. He added, “We just have to find a way to include everybody and help get them informed.
During this campaign, he has started a practice he calls, “Stop and Talk.” He parks his pickup alongside a road and puts out a “Stop and Talk” sign, chairs and homemade cookies baked by his wife.
“I never sat there and didn’t have a conversation,” said Smith, reporting that four or five people always end up stopping.
People seemed pleased by the effort, he said.
“A lot of people say, ‘I want you to know I’m a Republican, but I really like this idea,’” said Smith. “They don’t have to vote for me to talk to me.”