As Deb Bieging puts it, there are quite a few small business owners in the Wisconsin Assembly, but only three representatives with a medical background. She would like to join that small group.
“I’m not saying a health care background is more important than small business, but it’s less common in the Assembly,” said Bieging, a former pediatrician who is running as a Democrat in the 67th Assembly District against Rep. Tom Larson (R-Colfax).
And her medical background was a major factor in Bieging’s decision to run for Assembly. With health care reform a major topic across the country as well as in Wisconsin, she didn’t think the current Republican-controlled Legislature was putting enough focus on the issue.
“What I’ve been hearing from people I’ve talked to is health care is important to pretty much everybody,” she said.
Bieging has also seen the need for affordable health care firsthand, both in her position as a pediatrician and as a volunteer at the free clinic. When people can’t afford regular check-ups and preventative care, she said, their health problems can ultimately turn into an emergency room visit — and a more expensive problem.
But health care is only one of Bieging’s main issues. Another factor in her decision to run was quality education, both in public schools and technical colleges.
“One thing I’ve learned more about while campaigning is … how important technical education is to economy as well as society,” she said, noting the many good-paying technical and manufacturing jobs that are available.
She would like to see more public schools talking with students about the positives of technical colleges instead of just focusing on four-year institutions. Bieging would also like legislators to have more contact with school leaders on how to best maintain quality education and ensure schools have adequate funding.
“Public education is a key to a strong middle class and economy,” she said.
This preference for open dialogue also extends to working relationships between Republicans and Democrats. If she is elected, Bieging hopes to bridge the political divide at least among the Chippewa Valley representatives, suggesting the group meet for breakfast once a month to talk about constituent issues and just to get to know one another.
“It’s hard to attack someone when you know them on a personal level,” she said. “We all have our day-to-day joys and challenges. It helps to see each other as human beings.“
And she knows the political divisiveness can also spill into personal areas. Bieging acknowledged that both she and her family will be losing privacy and opening themselves to criticism.
“A lot about running is outside my comfort zone, but I feel strongly that there are priorities that need to be championed,” she said. “And it’s not just about me and my beliefs, it’s also (about) the community and listening to constituents.“