Democratic Party officials claim they’re glad to have such a “robust” field of candidates vying to take on Scott Walker.
But with about 15 Democrats in the field — at last count — the party’s primary race is not an embarrassment of riches. Rather, the field is so wide that it’s diluting resources that will be needed badly during the general election.
Unlike the eventual Democratic nominee, Scott Walker has access to all the money he wants. It’s not for nothing that he’s taken orders from the rich all his life. They owe him.
Still, the Democratic candidates are presenting progressive values and visions up and down the state. They’re promising to prioritize education and health care over tax breaks for people who are already wealthy. They’re asking people to wake up to the truth about the disproven myth of tax-cut “trickle down.”
The Democrats also are talking about securing legal status for 7,500 Wisconsinites who are contributing so much to our society but are forced to live under fear of deportation. They talk about a state cleansed of the poisons of racism and homophobia — a state that demands pay equity and reproductive freedom for women and effective environmental stewardship.
But while the Democratic candidates are delivering similar progressive messages, only one will face Scott Walker on Nov. 6 — and we must ensure the candidate is the one who stands the best chance to win.
That candidate is Andy Gronik.
Certainly, other Democrats in the race have admirable qualities. But Gronik has more than three decades of experience as a business adviser, helping businesses succeed in a variety of sectors. He gained a great deal of knowledge about manufacturing businesses in particular.
He’s an articulate and persuasive candidate who can inspire voters. He’s tough and approachable. And he’s persistent.
“If I thought anyone else in the Democratic field could beat Walker, I wouldn’t be here,” he told us during a recent interview.
Gronik has plans to get the state’s tattered affairs in order, and he has the skills to direct the difficult slog that it will take to return Wisconsin to the clean politics and upright image that once placed it among the shiniest stars on our nation’s flag.
Two years traveling the state — and listening
Gronik began his campaign nearly two years ago by traveling the state and asking voters what government could do to improve their lives and communities. He found that the one thing all voters want most is to be heard. So he listened, in all 72 counties.
On the road, he learned about the many hardships that Wisconsin families would not be facing under effective leadership. People told him how they have to drive hours to get health care because the nearby hospital closed, about how first their kids and then their neighbors moved away, because there were no opportunities left for them in their hometowns.
“(The travels) were a great opportunity to talk to people of all walks of life — people who are struggling to make a living, people who are living in poverty (and) people who are running businesses around our state, milking cows and running power companies … really the entire spectrum,” he told us during an interview last August.
Since then, he’s continued reaching out to voters across the state, knocking on doors, attending a range of community events — building the kind of grass-roots connection that has propelled other Democrats to victory over the past year. His Facebook page has drawn more than 21,000 likes, more than the other candidate’s page.
Gronik is a political outsider, a status he shares with recent come-from-behind Democratic winners. He’s never run for office and it shows in his direct, unguarded interactions with people. At a time when the public wants real, spontaneous people, Gronik delivers just that.
He said he’ll focus on solutions not politics and strive to encourage a respectful, bipartisan spirit.
Gronik is also a businessman, with a businesslike approach to identifying problems, then developing and implementing solutions. That’s exactly what he’s done professionally. In 1988, Gronik founded AccuVal, an appraisal and consulting business. He sold the company in 2013. He went on to found and serve as president of GroBiz, a company that helped struggling businesses troubleshoot and resolve the issues standing in the way of their success. Among his more high-profile clients were Harley-Davidson, Quad Graphics, Kimberly-Clark, Grassland Dairies and Briggs & Stratton.
“Andy is an extraordinary problem solver,” said Mark Kohlenberg, founder and CEO of Well Dressed Men. “His creative vision helped to position my new brand for a national launch with amazing positioning and engagement. … Andy is a brilliant creative visionary who transformed our brand from a tiny start-up to the category leader in the United States.”
Last September, negative stories about Gronik’s business dealings came to light. A dispute with his father over the family business led to him forming a new company with another man. Their partnership ended when Gronik’s partner sued him for fraud. At issue was the fact that Gronik continued to collect a salary after he stopped working to deal with a family health crisis.
Gronik said the problem was brought on by mold in his home, and he had turned his attention to dealing with that problem. He offered to pay back the money he was given during his absence.
The story sounds damning in press accounts, but reasonable when Gronik tells his side. Others in the Democratic field were ready to write him off over it, saying Walker would use the story effectively against him. Certainly the governor and his supporters will try.
But between now and Nov. 6, opposition researchers will dig up bushels of dirt on whomever Democrats nominate. Whatever happened between Gronik, his father and his business partner doesn’t take away from the success he’s had guiding other businesses to achieve their goals. And it doesn’t negate the acumen he'd bring to the Capitol, along with his bipartisan spirit and the no-nonsense resolve .
“Politics is a contact sport,” Gronik says on his website, adding, “It’s time for a candidate who takes opponents down.”
That’s the kind of attitude we need to defeat Walker.
Visit andygronik.com to learn more about Gronik and his ideas for creating a fairer and more prosperous Wisconsin.