Debate in Northern Wisconsin Focuses on Mining


A debate sponsored by a pro-mining business group in Ashland this week heard from the two candidates running for the 74th Assembly District.

Legislation to change the state permitting process for iron ore mining failed by one vote in the Wisconsin Senate back in March. Democratic State Rep. Janet Bewley of Ashland is seeking re-election to her second term in the district where proposed mining in the Penokee Range is hotly contested, “The question is not, ‘Why did I vote against the bill?’ The question is, ‘Why would anyone want me to vote for it?’”

Bewley says the Assembly mining bill went beyond streamlining the iron ore mining permitting process and put the environment at risk. Republican challenger John Sendra of Mercer disagrees, “In order to clear the way for a successful mining bill, you have to get people who are proactive in mining. The only way to do that is you got to vote them into office. You can get those who talk about it, and you can get those who will do it. I guarantee that I will vote for it.”

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Sendra says he’s not optimistic that northern Wisconsin’s high unemployment rate will improve if mining isn’t a part of the equation, “I’ve been up here for 18 years. I don’t see much changing. We have a very, supposedly, very vibrant tourism industry. This is not the type of industry you can pay families sustaining wages with. You just can’t.”

Bewley says she has more faith for the region’s economic future, “I have a lot of ideas and they all come from you. There are smart, hard-working, intelligent people and right now not one of you is working for a mine. Not one of you.”

Bewley says she’s ready to work with others in crafting a mining bill that balances environmental protection and public health with the need for jobs.