GOP Senate candidates Ron Johnson (left) and David Westlake. Photo by Patti Wenzel

Ron Johnson and Dave Westlakemay have an “R” after their names, but they have distinctly different styles in their race to face off withRuss Feingold in November.

Johnson is the consummate businessman. The owner of PACUR, a medical packaging business in Oshkosh, he brings an accountant’s sensibility to the campaign. He is measured and controlled, passing on questions that he doesn’t know the answer to.

Westlake is also a businessman, the owner of a small company in Watertown. He is philosophical with his answers, and brings a patriot’s passion to the race.

They came together for a public forum sponsored by 10 Chamber of Commerce associations in Waukesha County, answering questions submitted by the public.

Both candidates are relatively unknown. Johnson burst onto the stage late announcing his candidacy in mid-May and winning the state Republican Party’s endorsement one week later. He is independently wealthy and it shows in the large, plastic, holographic business card he is handing out to supporters and press.

Westlake has been campaigning since mid-2009 with little fanfare, running a low budget, all-volunteer campaign to show that his staff believes in his message, and are not simply looking for a paycheck.

Johnson chose to run because of jobs, the economy and the national debt. He feels uncontrolled state and federal spending must be stopped. He entered the race after spending years standing on the sideline and shaking his head at what was happening in Washington.

“The final straw was Health Care Reform,” Johnson said. “That is the greatest assault on the personal freedoms. This is socialized, Canadian-styled health care that will ration care and lower quality. I will work to repeal Health Care Reform.”

Johnson said he will be a citizen legislator who will bring the experience of living and running a business under the rules put in place by career politicians.

Westlake calls for a return to “American Exceptionalism,” saying that government is standing in the way of it. He also vows to be a citizen legislator who will challenge the ideas of the career politicians.

“This is our time to choose,” he said. “We need to return to a government of the people, by the people and for the people.”

Johnson and Westlake are close on most issues – both believe strongly in a return to Judeo-Christian values, that our borders should be closed and tightly regulated to keep illegal immigrants out, that employers who hire them should be fined. They are also pro-life, pro-Second Amendment and against extended unemployment benefits.

Johnson paraphrased Clinton Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers’ idea that extended unemployment benefits simply encourages people not to work. “The government has to stop sucking money out of the private sector, which would allow to create jobs instead of government programs.

Westlake agreed that extended unemployment gives the wrong incentive to those out of work. “We need to encourage people to get back into the economy.”

They also agree that “Obama Care” has to go, but they do like the idea of portability. Both would like to see legislation allowing the purchase of health insurance across state lines and tort reform to lower costs.

The one area they differ on is the Patriot Act. Johnson is completely on board with the ability to gather information on those who might terrorize us, with occasional reviews of the measure by Congress. Westlake would like to see the Patriot Act repealed because it no longer works to keep us safe.

“I supported it initially to gather data on threats,” Westlake said, a graduate of West Point. “We need to defend against all attacks. We can’t let any through,” referencing the underwear bomber, Times Square bomber and the Ft. Hood shooter.

Westlake sent potential voters into the streets with his philosophy of the race. “I want to change the mentality of the race. I want to change the minds and hearts. The power is in each one of you and if you want to take back government we offer that. I am the conduit.”

Johnson was less grand in his stump, asking people to vote for him if they valued hard work and success. He didn’t apologize for not knowing all the answers, but promised to work hard, dig deep and convey his honest feelings about the issues that matter to voters.

Hopefully by September, both will have differentiated themselves from the other so voters can make a real choice.

Listen or watch the June 21st forum here.

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