By Ben Rodgers
ASHWAUBENON – Terry Lee announced his candidacy Wednesday, May 2, to run for the Wisconsin 4th Assembly District seat.
Lee, who lives in Green Bay with his partner, Jennifer, and his three children, Jakk, 10, and Kennedy and Evelyn, both 5, said he made the choice to run because of his children.
“Basically I’m doing this for them,” Lee said. “I want them to have a good future.”
Lee currently works for Schneider in Ashwaubenon, but previously was a local radio news reporter at WTAQ and after that worked as a producer for WBAY.
Lee said he wants to bring that journalism mentality of digging into issues and being objective to politics.
He also didn’t join the Democratic Party of Wisconsin until February.
“I definitely deem myself as a progressive, but at the same time I take a very moderate and reasoned approach to things,” Lee said. “I’m very pragmatic, I like facts and I like listening to peoples’ opinions.”
Lee also is an active member and volunteer with Citizen Action Northeast Wisconsin.
He noted the advocacy group continues to work on non-partisan redistricting reform to ensure fair elections across the state.
“Our group was able to lead a statewide revamping of the issue because nearly 40 counties now have voted to support non-partisan redistricting reform across the state, which represents 70 percent of the population at this point,” he said. “This is an issue that Democrats and Republicans can agree on, that voters should be able to choose their politicians.”
Citizen Action Northeast Wisconsin has also done work on an alternate solution to profit-driven healthcare in the Fox Valley and aided in legislation that would make BadgerCare a public option.
This race will be Lee’s second foray into politics, as he previously ran unsuccessfully for District 12 on the Green Bay City Council.
Lee said running in a nonpartisan race for local government allowed him to meet the voters and talk about the issues, not the politics behind them.
“There’s always more common interest in things, as soon as we put party labels up people literally have a different change in their mindset on how they approach the topic,” he said.
He said he wants to talk with voters and remove the “horse blinders,” that some people have when discussing politics.
“We need to make sure we can take those off and actually engage people in conversations, because we will find way more in common than being polarized with issues,” he said.
One of the larger issues locally, the dark store loophole is something Lee wishes would have gotten more support.
The loophole allows commercial retailers and manufacturers to challenge the assessed value of their properties by claiming they are worth the same or close to the lower assessed value of similar but empty buildings.
Companies which challenge their assessments in court and win would be able to receive a retroactive refund with the affected municipalities having to make up the difference with that lost property tax revenue, such as with homeowners having more of the tax burden.
With Ashwaubenon being a retail hub, this could mean local residents would have no choice but to make up the difference on their taxes.
“It’s about having conversations with people, understanding the importance that municipalities and counties need to be able to charge, or get the revenue they need to provide essential services,” Lee said. “There needs to be an active campaign as well locally, to lobby state lawmakers, and talk with them and say, ‘Come look at our books. This is what this is doing to us. You are cutting us off at the knees by not being able to get our fair share from businesses.’”
Lee did commend the incumbent whose seat he is running for, Rep. David Steffen, for his work that brought a bill to the floor last session that ultimately failed to pass.
He put blame on Republican leadership and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, a group he said has clout and funds to lobby lawmakers.
“It goes into this whole idea of local control, which I want to fight for and return to municipalities and counties,” Lee said.
Lee promises to fight for that local control, which he said was lost when a last-minute addition to the state budget last session allowed short-term rentals across Wisconsin.
“It takes away from good, reasonable government,” he said. “That was just a sad pill to swallow and now municipalities are hurting from that and so are communities, and homeowners and neighbors around those party homes. And it’s only going to get worse, it’s only going to get worse, but it goes back to that idea of maintaining local control, because the state should not be telling us what to do. Communities should be able to pass ordinances that reflect their beliefs and what they think is best for their communities.”
As for the immediate future, Lee still needs to secure signatures to file with the state by June 1. He said he will be out in the community meeting people and having conversations about various topics in state politics.
Steffen, a Republican, has served on the legislature since being elected in 2014. He won re-election in 2016 and previously served on the Howard village board and the Brown County Board of Supervisors.
“I welcome Mr. Lee to the race and certainly I encourage everyone and anyone to participate in democracy. Putting your name and hat in the ring is often the best way to do that,” said Steffen. “With that said I’m hopeful that the people of the 4th Assembly District realize the work and results I’ve provided over the last four years and will continue to support me and my efforts down in Madison.”
State Assembly District 4 represents nearly 60,000 people in Ashwaubenon, Howard, Allouez and the west side of Green Bay.