By Laura Giammattei
COLFAX — Residents gathered at the Colfax Town Hall on Monday, June 13 to compare five candidates running for the 67th State Assembly.
The presenting candidates included Rob Summerfield, Tony Zammit, Mike Hanke, Dennis Doughty and Travis Hakes.
The first candidate to speak was Republican Rob Summerfield. Summerfield was born and raised in Bloomer, Wisconsin and graduated from Bloomer High School in 1998. From there, he attended UW-Stout and graduated with a degree in business and communications in 2002. He is a small business owner, operating the Two Acres Supper Club since 2005 and has also been a partial owner of the Bloomer bowling alley since 2015.
According to Summerfield’s campaign website, as a small business owner and entrepreneur, he understands that jobs and the economy are two of the most important issues to the citizens of the 67th assembly district. He is dedicated to working for the Wisconsin State Assembly to promote job and economic growth legislation that will continue to limit government regulations which will allow small businesses to thrive and expand.
Summerfield is also a strong believer in limited, efficient and responsible state government. As he explained: “Conservatives in Madison have made great progress in ensuring that Wisconsin state government operates within its means, and I pledge to work tirelessly in the Assembly to ensure we continue to promote limited and efficient government in Madison.”
Other issues Summerfield is passionate about and plans to develop if elected include pushing for the arrival of rural broadband as well as seeking better funding for school districts. He also plans to tackle the concerns that come with higher education costs. He is a firm supporter of technical training and education for students at the high school and higher education levels:
“We need a government that promotes economic growth, but we also need to make sure that we are teaching the skills needed to fill the new jobs that have been created. That’s why technical training is so important and why I will make that a focal point of my time in the Wisconsin State Assembly,” he said.
In addition, he is a strong supporter of the second amendment right to bear arms. He stated clearly how: “As your state representative, I pledge to protect and defend the Second Amendment rights of Wisconsin citizens and keep a watchful eye on any attempt to limit that right.”
Summerfield is also husband to Kim and father to three daughters: Emma, Violet, and Charlotte. He is an active member of the community, youth sports, and local industry.
Following Rob Summerfield was Republican candidate, Tony Zammit. Zammit is best known in the community as the Executive Director of the Chippewa Valley Symphony in Eau Claire, a non-profit organization.
Zammit is passionate about providing more job and career opportunities for those residing in the 67th district. He stated that Dunn County residents make $11,000 less annual income on average than individuals just across the border in Minnesota. He believes more residents will stay in their original communities if there were more avenues for opportunity here in northwestern Wisconsin.
In order to increase these opportunities, Zammit will make public education reform a top priority. Other issues Zammit would bring to the table in Madison if elected include better funding for schools, lower university tuition, real healthcare reform, a fairer tax code, continuation of second amendment rights, promoting traditional family values, encouraging improved infrastructure as well as political term limits.
Zammit would like to address the current methamphetamine and heroin concerns within the Chippewa Valley. He is encouraged by the success of treatment in other local communities and believes a similar system in the 67th district would allow drug users to seek treatment and become better contributors to society.
Tony Zammit is husband to Brittani and new father to Michael. He has over a decade of governmental experience at the state, local, and federal levels. In addition, he is also a member of his church council and former religious education teacher. He believes, and repeated often, that a strong devotion to our core values, hard work, and a lot of faith, will allow us to build a better Wisconsin for ourselves and for our children.
Next to present was Republican candidate Mike Hanke. Hanke served in the military for 23 years and retired in 2013 as a Senior Non-Commissioned Officer attaining the rank of Sergeant First Class. During his time in the military, Hanke was deployed to Iraq in 2004, 2005, 2009 and 2010. He also spent four years deployed in Europe, from 1986 to 1990.
Hanke has served on the Chippewa Falls City Council for two terms and believes that government involvement should be a service, not a career path. “It should be and must be a service,” he said.
In addition to his military and governmental service, Hanke is currently in his fourth year of pursuing a criminal justice degree. While he does not have an interest in becoming a police officer, Hanke would like to put his knowledge towards the private sector of security.
Hanke believes that jobs are the priority of any economy. He would like to approach the challenges regarding infrastructure in our communities. As he summarized, maintenance and new roadway creation are one of his highest priorities “in order to facilitate a consistent employment forecast” within the community.
According to Hanke’s campaign, the 67th Assembly community’s jobless rate is elevated over that of the state of Wisconsin’s average. There are questions and concerns regarding the availability of jobs in comparison to the availability of qualified individuals. He would focus on lowering underemployment rates and create competitiveness which would encourage higher wages and benefits for employees.
In addition to job and infrastructure growth and improvement, Hanke is also passionate about upholding the values of the first and second amendments. Another issue he would bring to Madison includes tackling the current drug problem in the Chippewa Valley.
Mike Hanke is an organization member of the Knights of Columbus Council 974, the NRA, Wisconsin Gun Owners, DAV Chapter 21 (Disabled American Veterans), VFW Post 1038, American Legion Post 77 and AMVETS Post 6440 (Bloomer).
In addition, Hanke is also actively involved with Meals on Wheels, the Police and Fire Commission, Veteran programming, and the Challenge Academy.
Hanke believes his career of military leadership, followed by his experience as an elected official has proven his capability to represent the constituents of the 67th Assembly.
Following Mike Hanke was Democratic candidate, Dennis Doughty. Doughty was born and raised on a farm in Arkansaw, Wisconsin and is currently a resident of Chippewa Falls.
Doughty has an extensive educational background and a lifetime of work experience. He graduated from Arkansaw High School and from there went on to the U.S. Navy where he studied Internal Communications Electronics. He next attended the University of Eau Claire and obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Speech. In addition, he attended Brown University where he studied Television and Radio Broadcasting. He is currently enrolled at CVTC working on a degree in IT Mobile Programming.
Doughty’s work background includes announcing for WRDN Radio, announcing and news reporting for WOKI, sound engineering at WEAU-TV, senior voice analyst/network analyst for Cray Research, video conference manager/network analyst for SGI, and project manager/trainer at Five Star Telecom. He is currently retired and, if elected, plans to put all of his focus into his position as the 67th State Assemblist.
On top of a detailed education and work resume, Doughty also has some civic experience. He was on the Chippewa Falls City Council as an Alderman and was also a Chairman of the Finance Committee. He currently attends and live streams all council meetings and serves on the Planning Commission.
Doughty is passionate about several issues he will bring to the table in Madison if elected, including: underemployment, improving education, higher education tuition concerns, and affordable healthcare.
Doughty’s campaign will not be taking any money from the Democratic Party, as well as any union or other special interest groups including the NRA. He promises not to serve more than three terms. He has also limited individual contributions to $10.
Last to present was Republican candidate, Travis Hakes. Hakes is a lifelong resident of the 67th Assembly district. He grew up in the township of Tilden, Wisconsin and went to Bloomer High School. His grandparents were farmers and Hakes has worked on farms and in agribusiness all of his life.
Hakes attended Chippewa Valley Technical College where he obtained an associate’s degree in criminal justice. He began his career in criminal justice in 2007 and is currently serving as a full-time police officer in Lake Hallie and a part-time Chief of Police in Elk Mound. He moved from Tilden to Elk Mound in 2013.
In addition to his police service, Hakes donates part of his time to the Special Olympics, promotes youth outdoor programming, is on the Board of Directors of the Chippewa County Pheasants Forever, and operates a small firearms training business.
Hakes has worked with legislators to adjust old laws or pass new laws that are either outdated or include loopholes that should otherwise be closed. He testified before a legislative committee to update a law from the 1950’s which banned push-button switchblades. The law had bipartisan support and was passed in the Spring of 2016. Hakes received the “Freedom’s Point” award from the Knife Rights organization for his efforts in passing this law.
Hakes is interested in continuing to locate and update outdated laws to close loopholes and to better suit our modern society.
Other issues he plans to address are groundwater being handed over to private businesses and high-speed internet access to all rural areas.
Hakes said that with his hard work ethic and familiarity of managing a budget as a small business owner, he will hit the ground running and take the community’s concerns down to Madison.
The primary election for the 67th State Assembly will be held on Tuesday, August 9 and the general election will be held on Tuesday, November 9.
Over the summer, there will be additional community forums where local residents can attend and ask questions of each candidate. The second session was held on Monday, June 20 at the Colfax town hall.