Gary George Discusses Congressional Run

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Gary George Discusses Congressional Run

Premiere Date: 
June 13, 2014

George, a convicted felon and former state senator, is running against U.S. Rep. Moore.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

Well, there's a surprise entry into a state congressional race by a former state senator. Gary George was once one of the most powerful lawmakers at the state capitol.   Elected to the senate in 1980, the Milwaukee attorney rose to several leadership positions until his recall in 2003. He was convicted in 2004 of conspiring to defraud the government and sentenced to four years in federal prison. In 2011 the Supreme Court reinstated his law license, and he says he's running “because public service is my calling.” Gary George joins us now from Milwaukee, and thanks very much for doing so.

Gary George:

Very glad to be here with you, Frederica.

Frederica Freyberg:

Why are you running for congress against incumbent Gwen Moore?

Gary George:

Well, I think it's clear that there is a need for urgency in tackling the problems in Milwaukee and Milwaukee County. And we're not getting that. I think you can see from the race this week involving Eric Cantor that across the country people are rebelling against a do-nothing congress. I have a record of getting things done in the state legislature, and I think it was important for someone to step up. And I decided that it was up to me to do so.

Frederica Freyberg:

So what specifically don't you think that Congresswoman Moore is doing that you would have done or you would do?  

Gary George:

Well, Fred, I think what you're saying with that question is not, I think, the proper approach to looking at this issue. These jobs don't belong to individuals. They belong to the people. And I think it's important if you look at the state of Milwaukee, the worst place in the country to raise a black child, the highest incarceration rate in Wisconsin in a nation that has the highest incarceration rate in the world of black men. I think the need for jobs, I think the importance of having quality transportation for jobs, for education, for access to health care. These are the issues that need to be addressed by the representative in congress. And the Milwaukee political establishment seems incapable of addressing these issues with the urgency that I think is called for and that's why I'm offering my candidacy.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, every news story, as you well know, about your entry into this race begins with the descriptor “convicted felon Gary George,” ours as well. How do you overcome that conviction in your campaign for congress?

Gary George:

I think the media can address the issue however they wish. I certainly have a story to tell about what happened to me, the targeting of me. I think that everyone knows now that if you're a Republican, you see Democratic judges and Democratic prosecutors. If you're a Republican, it's the reverse. And I think that it's important for people to move past what happened to me, because this is not about me. It's important to address what's necessary to give the people of the 4th Congressional District quality representation. When it comes to my case, there were certainly mistakes of fact and law that I could get into, but I don't think that's the real issue here. I feel an urgency to address the needs of this community. And number one is jobs. When you have a job, you can hold your family together. When you have a job, you can reduce the chance that your children are going to end up not only using drugs, but involved in the drug trade. And with the drug trade comes gun violence. You know there was a Cease-Fire Week, Frederica, in Milwaukee recently to try to stem the gun violence. And you know what happened during that week? 18 people were shot. I mean, the gun violence is rampant. We know it comes primarily out of four zip codes, but we seem, in Milwaukee,  not to have the political leadership to do anything about these problems. And our people have become almost beaten down because of the fact that we don't have leadership. The transportation system we have is in desperate need of more funding, but it took the Black Health Coalition and a lawsuit to get more money for our bus system. That bus system serves people from south Milwaukee and Cudahy up to Bayside and Brown Deer and all through Milwaukee County. It brings people to Summerfest. It brings people downtown to the Bucks games and the Brewers games. And yet we don't feel an urgency to make Milwaukee and Milwaukee County first class. I hope to bring that to congress and get the necessary funding and help to get things done. And I have another part of this, Fred, that I think is important. I have a history of working with both Democrats and Republicans to get the job done. And I think we see a partisanship, as I referenced earlier, that the voters want us to move beyond, and I'm prepared to do that if I'm elected to congress, first nominated on August 12.

Frederica Freyberg:

Well, I was going to ask you how your experience here at the statehouse translates to Washington, and you mentioned this bipartisanship. On the other hand, you did kind of make some people angry over the years with your bipartisanship. Was it 2003 voting not with the Democrats on the state budget?  

Gary George:

In my time in the legislature, I served for a decade as chairman of the finance committee, in charge of all the state's money as the senate co-chair. As chairman of the audit committee, as chairman of the judiciary committee, I had broad responsibilities in the legislature. My roots in the Democratic party are deep. My father and mother were part of a modern Democratic party forming in the early 1950s here in the state. But I can tell you when Pat Lucey passed away a couple weeks ago and I was at his service, his life further inspired me because no one can question his roots as a Democrat, Democratic party chairman, lieutenant governor, governor as a Democrat. But when he was serving President Carter, he realized the country was going in the wrong direction, so he stepped up with a Republican, John Anderson of Rockford, to press for the change that he knew was important. And he proved to be right, because Ronald Reagan ended up winning that election and that changed the next few years, for not only Democrats, but all the people in our state and country. I think sometimes you have to step up when the situation calls for it. And I think the failure of the political establishment in Milwaukee, who are not going to be on my side in this race. I realize that. But the failure of the political establishment, in fact, the failure of the media as well, to really focus on the urgency, the despair that the people of Milwaukee County feel, the need they have for true leadership, someone to bring the resources back from Washington, I think that's what's going to support my candidacy.

Frederica Freyberg:

We need to leave it there. Gary George, thanks very much.

Gary George:

Thank you.

Frederica Freyberg:

Incumbent Congresswoman Moore's office is working with us to schedule an interview in the coming weeks.


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