Hinze challenging for longtime Republican seat

Democrat believes 6th Assembly District has gotten nothing from GOP reps
By: 
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

The Republicans found a candidate to get behind for the 6th Assembly District election, and now Democrats have found their own as Shirley Hinze, of Shawano, has announced she’s pursuing the legislative seat.

Hinze said she’s running in the hopes that her community benefits from the actions the Wisconsin Legislature takes.

“In the 10 years I’ve been here (in Shawano), this community has voted Republican,” Hinze said. “I live in this community, and what do we get? Nothing. They keep voting for this and this, and there’s nothing coming back into the district.”

Hinze walks everywhere, so she’s used to seeing people one-on-one and talking with them about issues. She’s an alternate on the Shawano Plan Commission, and she served on the planning commission in Hartland.

Hinze was secretary of American Legion Auxiliary 492, on the board of the Harbor Advisory Commission in Marquette, Michigan, a Boy Scout leader and a Sunday School teacher. She was a stay-at-home mom for 12 years and a school health volunteer.

In an interview with NEW Media, Hinze said that she wants to be a legislator who listens to the people.

“I want to take that and not sit on my haunches and let stuff slide,” she said.

Because most of the 6th District is rural, Hinze wants to make sure that what she does in office will benefit and not harm farmers.

“One thing that I’m concerned is the potential loss of the Affordable Care Act,” Hinze said. “I do believe that will affect farming families significantly.”

Hinze also wants to make sure that farmers know what funding at the state level is available for agriculture producers and realize that it’s not just welfare. She feels voting for Republicans actually hurts agriculture, which is the lifeblood of Wisconsin.

“Unfortunately, when there’s funding for things like this, they’re being told it’s all about socialism,” Hinze said. “A lot of times, they’re just voting against themselves. I’m not happy about that. Can I turn that around? Maybe. Maybe not.”

The loss of generational farms is also an issue that Hinze feels the legislature needs to stand up and take action on, and for all farms, the price of fuel is a factor, and she’s seen how those prices negatively impact those who grow and raise the food people eat.

“A mega-farmer, because of what they have in income, they can afford a lot of different things,” Hinze said. “Our other family farms are our bread and butter that put in soybeans, your beans, strawberries. So fuel prices are really hurting them. I would like to see our agriculture in our state look at the farmers and say, ‘You can’t compete in the dairy market.’”

Returning to Wisconsin, the state where she was raised, she’s seen how things have changed in the agriculture industry, and she doesn’t want it to dwindle.

“Two things made our state — lumber and farming,” Hinze said. “We can’t lose that. We can’t lose our farmers.”

Rural communities are suffering from a lack of health care as doctors and other medical professionals aren’t flocking to smaller places, Hinze said, and so it ties in with fuel costs as small-town residents are traveling to bigger cities for their health care visits.

“The average time to drive to a hospital now is 20 minutes, and I started to laugh,” Hinze said. “Our people are going to Appleton or Green Bay. That’s 45 minutes one direction and 30 for the other direction. It’s taking our farming families a lot longer.”

Affordable housing is also a key issue Hinze wants to address in the legislature. She currently lives in her own home and said her income is comfortable to live on, but she sees elderly people on limited incomes being pushed out as property values skyrocket, and the taxes that come with it grow, as well.

“I’m OK for now, but I do know some elderly people who are on fixed incomes where taxes are going up, and maintenance costs are starting to climb,” Hinze said. “There is a possibility that a lot of senior people are going to be put out of their homes, and unfortunately, where do they go?”

Hinze sees Shawano turning into a bedroom community for Green Bay, with that city’s higher prices to rent seeping into Shawano County, too. Clintonville, which is now part of the 6th District, is experiencing similar issues, she said.

“We’ve had friends who moved into the apartments over by Hillcrest (Primary School) when they were first built,” Hinze said. “She and her husband started paying $900 or something, maybe $850. By the time she left, when she was forced out of there, it was $1,300 per month. This is an elderly person, and I’m seeing the duplexes go for $1,800, maybe $2,000.”

Hinze noted that having Elijah Behnke, a Republican from Pensaukee, be the endorsed candidate for the Shawano County Republicans is a concern for her because Behnke doesn’t currently live within the 6th Assembly District boundaries, although he has vowed to move to the Town of Morgan near Gillett if he gets the seat.

“I believe you need at least a year’s residency to run,” Hinze said.

Another issue Hinze wants to address concerns wake boats on smaller waterways like the Wolf River. She noted that damage caused by these boats on the shorelines are an environmental concern.

“These boats belong on the big, big lakes, not on these waterways, because of what they do,” Hinze said.

Hinze also doesn’t want to see what’s happening on this segment of the Wolf River to impact the Menominee Reservation, which is newly part of the 6th Assembly District.

“I am very passionate about our environment,” Hinze said.

Hinze noted she’s taking special care to make sure that when she campaigns on Menominee land, that she does it in a way that’s respectful to their culture. She wants to make sure she’s a representative for all of the people, not just the Democrats.

“Reaching out to that population, these people are apprehensive about government and everything else,” Hinze said. “I’m not in this for me. I’m not in this for the party. I’m an older person. I don’t have to do this, but I’m doing it for the people.”

lpulaski@newmedia-wi.com