RACINE — Amid a tough re-election battle already underway, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., entered familiar territory Friday in Racine.
Johnson, who operated Oshkosh-based plastics company Pacur, visited Racine manufacturers A&E Inc. and Cree, pushing smaller government and respect for businesses.
Johnson told employees at A&E, 5501 21st St., that federal government should “devolve,” with more power given to communities and states. Many programs are well-intentioned but the federal government isn’t capable of overseeing them, he said.
“Let’s reclaim our individual liberty and freedom,” Johnson told a group of about 100 workers in the building cafeteria. “That’s what made this country great. Not big government.”
Speaking to reporters afterward, Johnson said that view contrasts sharply with former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, his opponent in the 2016 election.
Johnson said he “has faith in the citizens of Wisconsin” to make decisions for themselves, accusing Feingold of forcing legislation, such as the Affordable Care Act, on residents.
“He’s one of these elite politicians, thinks he’s smarter than the average person,” Johnson said. “And he’s willing to impose different types of pieces of legislation.
“I want to bring government back to the governed, and Senator Feingold wants to grow the federal government, which is a pretty dysfunctional, broken place.”
Democrats, meanwhile, charge Johnson has a poor record on manufacturing, pointing to his vote supporting “fast-track” authority for a proposed Pacific trade deal and his comments opposing a federal minimum wage.
“Senator Johnson continues to support the out-of-touch agenda of billionaires and big corporations in Washington through job-killing free trade agreements which leave Wisconsin manufacturing out in the cold,” Feingold campaign manager Tom Russell said in a statement.
Johnson’s visit to Cree and A&E was designed to coincide with Manufacturing Month.
He told employees at A&E that manufacturing success should be celebrated, saying profits fuels increased wages and more jobs.
“Unfortunately in the political environment in which we’re in right now, politicians way too often demonize and demagogue business. People like you,” Johnson said. “It’s not going to work. We should be celebrating and incentivizing success. That’s what made this country great.”