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Mount Pleasant incumbents survive challenges from Foxconn critics

Election followed contentious campaign, high-profile Foxconn announcements

A glass globe on Foxconn's campus.
The Foxconn campus Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, in Mount Pleasant, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Four incumbents on the Mount Pleasant village board survived challenges from critics of the Foxconn project in Tuesday’s election.

Those victories came roughly one week after the village announced a $1 billion Microsoft data center could be coming to a site originally intended for the Foxconn development, and about a month after Foxconn and We Energies announced a 2,000-panel solar project.

Village President David DeGroot defeated Kelly Gallaher, a spokesperson for the A Better Mount Pleasant group that tracks local spending on Foxconn. DeGroot received a little more than 53 percent of the vote, while Gallaher received almost 47 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results from Racine County.

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Incumbents John Hewitt, Nancy Washburn and Ram Bhatia also defeated challengers Travis Yanke, Kim Mahoney and Eric Martinez, respectively.

The challengers were a slate of candidates recruited by A Better Mount Pleasant, which had lobbied against spending on the Foxconn project for years. They hoped to gain a majority on the village board to rein in municipal investment in the development, Mahoney told Wisconsin Public Radio in January.

Foxconn’s initial plans to employ 13,000 people in Mount Pleasant were radically downsized, with the company now employing about 1,000 workers. The company qualified for state subsidies for its Mount Pleasant development last year, bringing the total amount it has received from the state up to about $37.4 million.

Opponents, including Gallaher, have expressed concern that Foxconn could leave the village after it finishes receiving state subsidies. But the village of Mount Pleasant has said the company has met every financial obligation under the local contract and that it fully expects it will continue to do so.

With the development taking center stage in the local election, the race between DeGroot and Gallaher was highly contentious.

DeGroot’s campaign filed 91 challenges and 76 complaints to alleged errors in campaign filing paperwork by Gallaher and the other members of her slate. DeGroot’s campaign also alleged Gallaher failed to pay her business’ property taxes, which prompted Gallaher to sue DeGroot and his campaign manager for defamation.

Neither candidate agreed to an interview Wednesday, but DeGroot’s campaign provided a statement. Gallaher did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

DeGroot said he’s grateful for the support he received from the community, and views his reelection as a sign that the community wants to continue moving forward with development in the village.

“Our commitment is to move past the politics and drama and instead focus on making our community a better place to live, work, and raise a family,” he said. “Let’s get to work on lowering our tax burden, bringing in more quality jobs, and expanding parks and recreational opportunities.”

On Facebook Tuesday night, Gallaher thanked those who supported her in the race, and said it was a pleasure getting to know others in the community.

“We gave them one hell of a run — and made them work for it,” she wrote. “I so enjoyed hearing from you and getting to meet so many of you.”

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