A candidate for the Republican nomination in the 1st State Senate District is declining to reveal his position on the repeal of the state’s prevailing wage law. Alex Renard’s silence on the issue is notable because former Assembly speaker John Gard, who appears to have a central role in Renard’s campaign, represented as a lobbyist a union that opposed the repeal. Meanwhile, Renard’s primary opponent, State Rep. Andre Jacque, was a legislative leader on the repeal issue. Jacque says Assembly Speaker Robin Vos stripped him of his Labor Committee chairmanship after Jacque held a hearing on a prevailing wage repeal bill against Vos’ wishes.
Jacque asserts that it is such displays of independence that has five fellow Republican state representatives endorsing Renard. The lawmakers give two reasons for endorsing Renard: They believe an outsider has a better chance of defeating Democrat Caleb Frostman and they say Jacque has shown an inability to raise the funds necessary to win in a general election.
Privately, several Republican sources say Jacque “doesn’t value relationships and burns bridges.” Jacque says any personal conflicts are due to his unwillingness to compromise his conservative principles, even when it upsets leadership.
Media Trackers asked both Jacque and Renard to answer three questions. Jacque answered all three:
1) Do you support the total repeal of the state’s prevailing wage law? Would you defend it if there were efforts to reverse it?
Yes. I am proud to have helped accomplish the prevailing wage law repeal over the past two sessions (and I hope to see Congress make changes to the Davis-Bacon Act to extend the impact of Wisconsin’s repeal to the many state projects receiving federal funding). Prevailing wage mandates result in above market costs and a less competitive bidding environment, and Wisconsin taxpayers have already reaped significant savings and efficiency from their repeal.
2) Do you support the enactment of Right to Work in Wisconsin? Would you defend it if there was an effort to repeal it?
Yes. I am pleased to have played a role in Wisconsin’s expansion of worker freedom in the 2015-’16 session as the Assembly Labor Committee Chair. I have been a vocal, longtime supporter of right-to-work legislation, and it was well past time for our state to incorporate this vital workplace reform which has made our state a more attractive place for companies to expand and locate.
3) Do you unequivocally support Governor Scott Walker’s Act 10 public union reform measure?
Yes. As a legislator who voted for Act 10 in my first term, I remain convinced that the policy holds up as a necessary step to regain control of costs in the public sector which had become unsustainable for taxpayers and Wisconsin’s budget.
Renard answered in a single paragraph. His response did not address his position on prevailing wage:
“I will summarize my beliefs as follows. I believe the greatest risk conservatives face is this seat falling into the hands of the liberal Democrats in Madison. I support Act 10 and have volunteered for countless Republicans and donated personally to people who voted for it. As a manufacturer, I support Right to Work and have worked to create a relationship, work environment, and culture with our employees that is built on love and respect and we are non-union.”
Renard’s campaign did not respond to a follow-up email seeking his stance on prevailing wage. Media Trackers chose to ask each candidate specifically about these three issues on the record following an off the record conversation with Renard last week.
Prevailing wage laws mandate that taxpayers pay artificially inflated prices for labor on public construction projects. After a full repeal of the prevailing wage law stalled in 2015, lawmakers approved a compromise offered by Sen. Frank Lasee, R-De Pere that repealed prevailing wage requirements for local governments and required the federal prevailing wage, rather than one set by the state, to be used for state-funded projects. Republicans passed a full repeal in 2017. Gard was a key figure in the opposition to repealing prevailing wage.