Laning, LeMahieu both tout background, experience

by Jeff Pederson of The Review staff

MARTHA LANING Democrat MARTHA LANING Democrat First-time political candidate Martha Laning is hoping a fresh perspective and a diverse financial and management-based career in the private and non-profit sector th will fuel success in her quest to fill the 9 District Wisconsin State Senate seat in the upcoming Nov. 4 fall section.

The Port Edwards native and current town of Sheboygan resident is running for a seat on the Wisconsin State Senate as a Democrat against Republican candidate and current Sheboygan County Board Supervisor Devin LeMahieu.

The former executive director of the Plymouth Intergenerational Center said one of her children persuaded to run for the seat, which will soon be vacated by Sen. Joe Leibham, who is not running for re-election.

“It was actually my daughter, Madison, who encouraged me to run,” Laning said. “When I was first approached to run, I was flattered, but initially said no because I intended to return to the private sector after completing the Generations project in Plymouth.

“However, my daughter said, ‘If someone like you who has the skills to bring people together to solve great problems doesn’t run, who will?’ I reconsidered. I am not running for my own political ambitions. I am running for our future generations.”

Laning has a vast background of private sector experience to draw on through her work in the accounting, audit, finance and general management departments at Target, Inc., Kraft Foods and Environmental Land Management.

“Right now our state is divided and we need to work together in order to move forward,” Laning said. “I want to bring back an atmosphere of cooperation at the State Capitol and I will use my private sector experience to do that. At Target Inc., we did not determine the value of an idea based on whether the author was a member of a particular party. We just looked at whether or not the idea had merit and we worked together to implement the good ideas.

“Right now, I think most politicians are more concerned about towing the party line than being leaders and implementing their constituents’ ideas and needs,” she said. “We need legislators who are leaders and problem solvers, not career politicians at the Capitol.”

Although she acknowledges the need for some of the financial principles behind the controversial Act 10 legislation, which eliminated the collective bargaining ability of most public employees, Laning believes a solution could have been implemented more effectively.

“In 2011 we had a huge deficit and I agree that we needed to balance the budget,” Laning said. “Our debt had grown to an unmanageable level, but I think the way the administration moved ahead was badly handled.

“It would have been better if representatives had sat down at a table and worked together to develop a plan to balance the budget,” she said. “I have spoken to every school th district in the 9 Senate District and most of them have said they could have gotten to their contract without the implementation of Act 10. Act 10 is currently the law in Wisconsin, and we will work within it. However, I would like to send a message to our public employees that we value them, we believe in them, and we want to allow them to have representation at a bargaining table again. It is time to heal and when both sides negotiate in good faith, Wisconsin wins.”

Laning, who holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in accounting and personnel Management and a Master of Business Administration in finance from University of Wisconsin-Madison, has strong concerns about the future of public education in Wisconsin.

“I am a strong believer in public education because of what it has offered my family,” Laning said. “My father grew up in poverty and quit school to join the Merchant Marines in World War II, so he could send money home to his family. It was a public school teacher who approached my father after he returned from World War II and convinced him to finish high school. The G.I. Bill allowed him to become a chemical engineer.

“Public education has been important to my family’s life because of the opportunities it has offered us. I believe a strong public education system lays the groundwork for healthy communities and a well-trained workforce. I think we need to ensure our public schools offer a quality education to all children.”

Although funding cuts have impacted public schools in many ways recent years, Laning says the strength of public education should remain a high priority.

“With recent cuts to school funding, we have lost a lot of good educators, cut quality programs, and seen class size numbers grow,” Laning said. “For example, in my home school district of Sheboygan we have lost 100 teachers out of 700 since 2008 with only 30 less children in the district. We need to make sure our schools offer a quality education to all our children and prepare the next generation for great things.”

Laning says the key to a strong economy runs through the middle class.

“It is vital that we grow the economy from the middle class out,” Laning said. “Based upon my experience as a business and finance professional, I know that no company will build a new factory or hire more workers if there is not a demand for the product they make.

“To ensure that the middle class has the buying power to stimulate growth, we need not only to support our current business, but also foster a good atmosphere for small businesses and for entrepreneurs to succeed,” she said. “We also need to work with businesses to raise the minimum wage. I want to help new businesses with strong business plans get started and reduce the number of working poor in our state.”

As a member of the state Senate, Laning says she would work to incorporate balance in tax system.

“I believe we need a fair tax structure so that everyone pays their fair share,” Laning said. “I want to work at closing tax loopholes that allow some corporations to pay no state income tax. All businesses should be treated fairly. Instead of favoring some industries with zero tax, as the legislature did when they eliminated state income tax on manufacturers and farmers, all businesses should get a small reduction to make our business tax structure more competitive with other states.

“I also believe in fiscal responsibility,” she said. “We should not be giving election-year tax breaks when our budget has a looming structural deficit. With an MBA in finance, I look forward to using my skills to bring strong financial health back to Wisconsin.”

While she admits she is not a politician, Laning does have a background of working with local government, community and businesses leaders and leading large community-based projects.

Laning describes her experience leading the Plymouth Intergenerational Center has one of the greatest successes of her career.

“I think my experience with the creation of the Generations Center in Plymouth demonstrates my ability to bring people together to work and strengthen our community,” Laning said. “As the executive director, I worked with government, local business leaders and volunteers to gain the support we needed to raise $4.7 million within our community during the recession.

“I wrote the business plan, sold it to community leaders and investors, worked with the government to secure a $1 million grant, managed the finances, oversaw the construction, opened and ran the center which now serves all of Sheboygan County,” she said. “The center is a testament to what we can do when we work together and I was proud to lead that project.

Laning, who has three children, Kaitlyn, Madison and Alec with her husband of 24 years, Wayne, says her constituents are looking for a leader that will represent them honestly and fairly.

“People are tired of the divisiveness and all the bickering and arguing that is occurring in Madison,” Laning said. “People just want their elected officials to consistently do what is best for their communities, and, that is my intention.

“I do not care whether an idea is a Republican or Democratic idea,” she said. “I only care about whether it is a good idea for our communities. I will be in Madison to represent the people of District 9, not a party.

After announcing her candidacy last October, Laning has been hard on the campaign trail for the better part of the past year.

“I have been reaching out to voters in the district since last October and have been thrilled by the responses I get when knocking on doors, making phone calls, and speaking at the many great community events Senate District 9 has to offer,” Laning said. “I have knocked on doors in almost every municipality throughout the entire Senate District, from Cedar Grove to Chilton.

“I have listened to the concerns of thousands of constituents while knocking on doors and making phone calls,” she said. “I have also attended picnics, parades, festivals, fairs, football games, and meetings in every part of the district. In addition to that, I have been meeting with local elected offi- cials, school administrators, and both large and small business men and women all over the district to learn about the issues they face. As November 4th gets closer, I want to talk to as many people as possible because I am running to represent them, not a political party. “

Laning feels she has what it takes to be an effect representative for her voting district in the state Senate.

“Senate District 9 needs a senator with a strong business background who values community, can work within the state’s budget parameters, and will network to bring state resources and opportunities to our area,” Laning said. “My MBA and diverse business experience give me the insight and skills to strengthen business in our state while working together to solve our challenges.

“I want a strong business environment in Wisconsin, but I also see the need to balance that with strong community programs,” she said. “Using my finance skills to solve the cause of our budget problems, will lead us to having the money to invest in valuable community programs such as education, healthcare and road repair. Finally, my networking skills will help me bring District 9 the resources and opportunities that businesses and the state have to offer our communities.”

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