By: Brian Sikma
Rep. Dean Kaufert’s dalliance with liberal ideas doesn’t stop with his vote against collective bargaining reform, the signature accomplishment of his fellow legislative Republicans and Governor Scott Walker. It runs the gamut from attacking social conservatives after the 2010 election, to supporting ObamaCare and calling for a state-run dental health insurance program. Records even show that as of 2010 Kaufert owned stock in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, government sponsored enterprises that are the bane of conservatives opposed to government programs that risk taxpayer money on private financial deals.
As the battle lines that would define Wisconsin politics for the next year and a half were being drawn in early 2011, Kaufert assaulted the idea of collective bargaining reform with language that would later be used by Democrats seeking to knock off Governor Scott Walker in a fever-pitched recall election.
Interviewed by the Wisconsin Radio Network in February of 2011, Kaufert called collective bargaining for government workers a “fundamental right.” At the time conservatives were challenging that concept eventually noting that even liberal icons like President Franklin Roosevelt thought collective bargaining for public workers a bad idea.
In the same interview, Kaufert expressed concern about the mounting political tensions in the state and accusing his fellow Republicans of going down a dangerous and divisive path. “We don’t have to start a civil war,” he said. It would be a year and a couple of months later that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett would make accusing Republicans of starting a political “civil war” the centerpiece of his political attack on Governor Walker.
Roughly a month before Republicans took control of the legislative and executive branches of state government, Kaufert expressed his opposition to any socially conservative legislation that might be proposed. Telling an AP reporter in December of 2010, “I’m a little nervous” about any bills dealing with abortion or other social issues, Kaufert signaled that he would “do what I can to try to keep us [Republicans] focused.” His view was not shared by other Republicans including then-State GOP Chairman Reince Priebus, who reiterated to the AP the party’s commitment to bring reform on a host of issues.
One reform that Kaufert did support was bringing ObamaCare to Wisconsin. On October 18 of 2011, Kaufert voted in favor of AB 210, a bill that started the process of making Wisconsin state law and regulatory policy compliant with ObamaCare. The measure never cleared the state Senate and within weeks Governor Walker declared his opposition to the state’s compliance with ObamaCare prior to the outcome of federal legal and political challenges.
After AB 210 failed to pass, Wisconsin went on to become one of the leading state challengers to the Obama Administration’s healthcare reform law.
Government-run health insurance appears to be something Kaufert was comfortable with well before the AB 210 debate. Attending a Wisconsin Dental Association Mission of Mercy event in Sheboygan during his 2010 re-election, Kaufert effusively praised the charitable efforts of the dental professionals and voiced his hope for and support of a new state program that could provide a dental health insurance to low income individuals.
“We as a state, I think, need to step up to the plate a little bit. We need to at least make sure that dentists are paid their costs to provide this type of care,” he proposed in a video. “Hopefully soon we can start addressing the dental, the huge dental needs of this state.”
Already some medical professionals complain that a major flaw with state and federal health insurance and medical care reimbursement programs are that they cut the margin close, paying doctors and health care providers too little make it worth their time to regularly participate in the program. Talk of a new medical insurance entitlement is also not likely to meet a fond reception among Republican budget hawks.
How voters will react to Kaufert’s long and broad affiliation with liberal political positions remains to be seen. He is facing a primary challenge on August 15 in a newly redrawn Assembly district that an expert source tells Media Trackers has a voting population base that is 54% Republican. That’s a substantial switch from the old district Kaufert is used to running in and which had a Republican voting population of 48%.