RISING CONSERVATIVE STARS, PART II
State Rep. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield): He’s very bright, very driven.
No one questions Chris Kapenga’s skills, commitment, or intelligence. He is a Certified Public Accountant who has worked for Arthur Andersen and General Electric and has owned several businesses including Integrated Time Systems, a provider of workforce time management solutions.
But opinion is divided on his aggressiveness, at least in the first days of the new legislative session.
“He’s just cocky,” a legislative insider says bluntly. “He’s probably the most media ready and clearly came in ready to play from day one. He kind of came in wanting to be king of the freshmen. The first time they met it was great, and then the next couple of meetings they turned on him pretty quickly.”
Kapenga, 39, makes no secret about what drives him. One of the “Obama babies,” Kapenga says he was alarmed by the aggressiveness of the left’s agenda. “We had elected a president and a legislature that saw bigger government and more spending as the answer to our country’s and our state’s problems.”
Kapenga is pushing an aggressive agenda to cut taxes, deregulate business, limit union power, and fix the budget mess through adopting generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and zero-based budgeting.
Those measures should have strong support in the GOP caucus, and some observers see Kapenga’s rough start as simply part of the learning curve. “He is very bright and very driven, and we need more of that in the Legislature,” says a Capitol veteran. “He thought he was going to turn the Legislature into a business before he even got sworn in. I think he will learn the most in the first three months about the process.” After the “rocky start,” he says, Kapenga has “cooled his jets to the point where he is not hurting himself anymore.”
“I like his energy,” says a business lobbyist.
State Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield): This Bronze Star recipient brings a CPA’s skills to analyzing the budget.
After working on restoring the shattered economy of Iraq, Wisconsin’s problems didn’t look quite so daunting for Dale Kooyenga.
From January to November 2008, Kooyenga, a Certified Public Accountant, was the 4th Infantry Division’s officer in charge of economic development in Baghdad. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his service. Shortly after he returned from the Mideast, he decided to run for political office.
“My experiences as an Army officer and my civilian experiences as a CPA gave me a unique perspective,” he explains. “Losing a friend in Iraq and witnessing other acts of sacrifice made me fully understand and appreciate the true cost of freedom and liberty.”
He adds: “We did not shed blood and sweat over the past 200-plus years in a bloody civil war, and destructive wars to defeat communism, imperialism, fascism and other threats, just to destroy our great republic because of our elected officials’ financial recklessness.”
Kooyenga, 31, wants to see a constitutional amendment requiring the state budget be balanced in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles.
“By any measure, he is one of the Assembly’s rising stars. “He’s a team guy,” says an insider. “He seems to know how the process is going to work. Very impressive.”
“He deals with others very well on a personal level,” adds a legislative veteran. “I think he learned a lot from Kapenga’s mistakes. Kooyenga has a little broader political view than some of the other guys.”
State Sen. Pam Galloway (R-Wausau): As a surgeon, she’s certain to be a leading voice on health care policy.
Pam Galloway is a giant-killer. A board-certified surgeon, she mounted a quixotic bid against the Senate Democrats’ most powerful incumbent, Majority Leader Russ Decker, and beat him, helping deliver control of the upper house to the Republicans.
Unlike her counterparts in the Assembly, however, Galloway is the Senate’s only genuine rookie, never having served in public office before.
She brings impressive credentials to a legislative body that will have to wrestle with an array of health care issues. Galloway, 55, has an undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago and an M.D. from the Medical College of Virginia. As a physician, she specializes in the treatment of breast cancer.
Like Erik Severson in the Assembly, Galloway was drawn into politics by issues like malpractice reform and Obamacare. “I realized that if I wanted to change the trajectory of the government’s path toward dependence and increasing control over how I was going to practice medicine and run my business, I needed to be an active part of correcting that course,” she explains.
Galloway ran on a platform she calls CPR — “Control taxes, Promote jobs, and Reduce spending.”
Expected to be one of the leading GOP voices on health care, Galloway understands that Obamacare is not likely to be repealed in the near term but wants to focus on “empowering consumers to make their own health care choices and also using market forces to combat increasing costs.”
She explains: “Wisconsin has to create a proactive response...to show how innovation and consumer choice can offer an alternative to socialized medicine, which the federal bill is driving us rapidly toward.”
A business lobbyist predicts: “She’s going to do really well.”