The Wisconsin Republican Party is attacking one of the leading Democrats challenging incumbent Gov. Scott Walker, arguing her opposition to a major development deal with the Taiwanese technology manufacturer Foxconn is hypocritical because she backed a separate financing deal in the state six years ago.
The GOP is zeroing in on legislation for a tax-increment financing deal that then-state Rep. Kelda Roys pushed in 2012. It would have helped the world headquarters of Spectrum Brands, which makes a variety of consumer products such as insect repellant and the George Foreman grill, move from Madison to the nearby suburb of Middleton.
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin ― now another candidate in the governor’s race ― criticized the legislation at the time, as did now-U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, who defeated Roys in a primary in 2012 to win his congressional seat.
The $3 billion Foxconn deal, which would create an estimated 13,000 jobs at a manufacturing plant in Racine County, has become a major issue in this year’s governor’s race. The deal is unpopular in public opinion polling, especially in rural parts of the state, but is supported by both Walker and President Donald Trump.
Roys and other Democrats have criticized the deal as corporate welfare and a massive giveaway to a foreign company, and have questioned why state money is going to Foxconn instead of to local roads or schools. Roys, in particular, has emphasized the homeowners who would be displaced to build the massive factory, which is expected to have as much floor space as 130 Walmarts.
The Wisconsin GOP has specifically attacked Roys ― who is considered the Democrat most likely to upset the front-runner, state Superintendent of Schools Tony Evers, in Tuesday’s primary ― for not supporting the deal with Foxconn.
“It’s the height of hypocrisy for Kelda Roys to stand against Foxconn’s 13,000 good paying, family-supporting jobs for political reasons when she led the charge on similar legislation while serving in the legislature,” Wisconsin GOP spokesman Alec Zimmerman said in a statement to HuffPost. “This is just further proof that she’ll say anything to get noticed in the crowded Democrat primary.”
Roys dismissed the comparison between the two projects and noted that tax-increment financing deals like the one she pushed for Middleton weren’t generally controversial.
“It’s like saying a small-town bowling alley and Six Flags Great America are the same thing,” she said in a phone interview. “This is a far cry from the largest corporate giveaway in the history of our state.”
Public polling has given Evers a large lead but Roys, 39, has made the case that she’s the candidate most likely to fire up the younger, progressive voters needed to defeat Walker. She has the backing of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y) and EMILY’s List, and she has rolled out the endorsement of scores of local officials in recent weeks.
The legislation for a tax-increment financing deal for Spectrum Brands cruised through the state Senate, then fell apart amid opposition from Soglin and Pocan when it came up for a vote in the Wisconsin Assembly.
“This is allowing one neighboring community to raid an employer from another neighboring community,” Pocan said on the floor of assembly at the time. “Some would call this a corporate giveaway.”
Roys said the new attack showed the Walker campaign was afraid of her.
“They’re desperate for me not to be the nominee,” she said.