As voters prepare for the hotly contested and deeply consequential midterm elections on November 8, the La Follette School has partnered with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Wisconsin Public Radio to engage Wisconsin’s voters in a conversation about the policy issues that are most important to them. The project, known as the Main Street Agenda, aims to bring La Follette’s policy expertise to a wider audience and lend context to the sound bites that characterize political campaign season.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel kicked off the project early in the summer by asking its readers to respond to a poll on voter priorities. As the election drew nearer, the partners scheduled four free town halls located across the state in Milwaukee, Pewaukee, Green Bay, and Wausau. Each town hall features a La Follette faculty panel responding to the priorities identified by the poll and closes with a moderated conversation among members of a citizen panel drawn from poll respondents. Attendees are encouraged to submit questions for the faculty panelists, and the citizen panel is asked to talk more about the priorities they identified in their poll responses.
Over the course of the Milwaukee, Pewaukee, and Green Bay town halls, over 250 in-person attendees engaged in discussions about pressing public policy issues, and hundreds more listened via livestream. The faculty panels featured Greg Nemet, Lauren Schmitz, and J. Michael Collins in Milwaukee; Susan Webb Yackee, Mark Copelovitch, and Ross Milton in Pewaukee; and Manny Teodoro, Sara Halpern-Meekin, and Morgan Edwards in Green Bay. From explaining how world events influence prices at the pump to providing optimism for mitigating climate change, La Follette School faculty responded to audience questions and connected their research expertise to the policy issues that were raised by attendees.
Each citizen panel featured a mix of Republicans, Democrats, and independents without identifying the political viewpoint of each participant. Although panelists’ political affiliations occasionally emerged during robust discussions on voter priorities, each panel found its way to agreement about a singular topic: all voters are frustrated by the lack of information provided by political candidates during campaign season. The audience and citizen panelists each talked about the challenge of understanding how candidates will engage with their policy concerns.
A generous gift from David and Madeleine Lubar has made these town halls possible. Recordings of the events are available on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel website. The last event will be held on November 1 in Wausau and can also be viewed via livestream; RSVP here to attend either in person or virtually.