The Democrats took a beating on Tuesday at every level from the U.S. Senate to governor’s races right down to state legislatures.
Here in Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was reelected and the Republicans expanded their majorities in the state Senate and Assembly. They now hold a 19-14 majority in the Senate and a whopping 63-36 majority in the Assembly.
What implications does all this have for our work? Well, to be blunt the Republicans are generally harder for us to work with. They tend to have more caucus members who just don’t like cyclists from a cultural perspective. Last session Governor Walker cut funding for bicycle projects, but on the other hand it was Republican legislators who restored some of it. Unfortunately, one of our best Republican allies in that fight, Sen. Mike Ellis of Neenah, retired.
So, we have our work cut out for us. But there’s no reason cycling should be a partisan issues and we know from personal conversations that many of our Bike Fed members vote Republican. Besides, bicycling is big business in our state. Cycling is a nearly $2 billion industry, accounts for 14,000 jobs in Wisconsin and make our state more competitive with our neighbors. Millions of Wisconsinites are at least casual cyclists.
So our response to the election will be threefold.
First, work harder than ever to get the word out about cycling’s benefits to our economy, to tourism and to public health.
Second, build relationships with legislators at the local level. That’s where you come in. Anything you can do to contact your legislators, meet with them, even get them out for a bike ride would be crucial. We’re happy to assist you in making that happen. Just email me.
Third, the Bike Fed must work even harder at the local level. Cities, villages, towns and counties are making great progress on biking issues. They tend not to get caught up in the ideological debates at the state level. Local officials are practical. They just want to get things done. So, we can help them write bike plans, bolster them with information and encouragement and support local advocates on the front lines.
Our job at the Bike Fed is to work with the political players we’re dealt and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.