This past Friday evening, I had the pleasure to sit down and talk with Henry Sanders, one of a handful of candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for Lt. Governor this fall, at the Democratic Party of Wisconsin's 2010 state convention in Middleton.
To throw in my own two cents, I find Mr. Sanders to be a very refreshing asset to the Democratic Party because it's Party members like he and Todd Kolosso who can bridge the gap between the traditional perceptions (however real or exaggerated) that the Republican Party is somehow the know-all-be-all master of the universe when it comes to pro-business growth while the Democratic Party is simply anti-business and looks for every way possible to tax businesses and put up as many other obstacles as possible. At 36 years old, Mr. Sanders has the business credentials to go toe-to-toe in the ring with the Republican Party's best and brightest, most seasoned economic theorists and most likely come away having knocked their lights out. If you don't believe me, check out some of the statements I pulled from the About page of his campaign Web site:
Sanders is the founder of the Madison Area Growth Network (MAGNET) and Propel Wisconsin Innovation—non-profit organizations dedicated to job creation and attracting/retaining skilled professionals to help grow the economy in Wisconsin. A small business owner himself, Henry connects small to mid-size businesses in the biotech industry with capital to help build capacity, expand operations, and create local jobs.Following are excerpts from my interview with Mr. Sanders.
Sanders served as Vice President of Economic Development and Public Policy of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, where he built the organization’s Small Business Advisory Council and helped to increase the collaboration and involvement of progressive, women and minority-owned businesses in South-central Wisconsin.
Why Lt. Governor?
I'm running primarily because of very high unemployment. I bring a lot of diverse, real-world experience to the table in creating jobs and fostering policies and strategies that have led to economic growth. But I'm also running because many people are simply tired of politics as usual.
With your past high-level involvement in the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce and your other impressive credentials in the world of business, do you sometimes find yourself feeling alienated in the Party, particularly by the Party's left wing? After all, much of what you do and have done professionally is traditionally seen, whether rightly or wrongly, as "Republican" in nature by both Party outsiders and especially by those within the left wing of the Party, who tend to be more militant on businesses and business-related organizations such as chambers of commerce.
I've never felt alienated, no. And even though there may be Party members and groups and factions within the Party that tend to be more aggressive on businesses, it's important to note that labor is just as interested in creating jobs as business. There really is a lot of common ground shared by labor and business. In regards to my work at the Madison Chamber, I was successful in changing the attitude of that organization.
It's clear you have a lot of plans and ambitions for the job. How do you respond to the typical, negative-sounding questions posed by many people concerning the role of the Lt. Governor, questions like: "What does the Lt. Governor do?", "Who is the Lt. Governor?", and "Isn't s/he the person who takes over when the Governor quits or dies?"
That's why I'm running, so people never ask those questions again. I aim to show these people that this is a real office with a real mission.
What advice do you have for younger people looking to enter public service?
Make sure you're getting into it for the right reasons; that you really want to help people. And remember that what happens today affects tomorrow.