Arthur Kohl-Riggs Challenges Walker in Rep. Primary
Arthur Kohl-Riggs has maintained a steady presence at protests against Scott Walker over the last fourteen months.
He has made more than 150 YouTube videos about the Republican onslaught in Madison.
He’s been arrested three times on “disorderly conduct” charges or for “other conduct prohibited,” though his alleged offenses have been for filming in the Assembly gallery, or having a camera there, or for silently protesting.
Now he’s decided to run against Scott Walker in the Republican primary on May 8.
“I want to use my campaign as a platform to highlight Scott Walker’s hypocrisy,” he says, contrasting Walker’s views with those of the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln and Fighting Bob La Follette.
“The Republican Party doesn’t even resemble what it was founded on,” he says.
Another reason he’s running, he says, is because he doesn’t want all the focus of attention in Wisconsin to center on “the four Democratic candidates either attacking each other or making one of them seem like the perfect anti-Walker candidate,” Kohl-Riggs explains. “To me, it’s not about making these people into being the savior of our problems. This election is about Scott Walker. If we can keep the attention on how Scott Walker’s policies are failing the state, we win. So I figured the best way to campaign against Scott Walker was to actually campaign against Scott Walker.”
Kohl-Riggs is 23. “In Wisconsin, to run for governor, you just need to be able to vote,” he says. “If elected I’d be the youngest governor in the history of the country.”
Realistically, Kohl-Riggs understands he doesn’t have much of a chance of unseating Walker.
One of his slogans is: “Art for Gov. Crazier things have happened.”
Another is: “Arthur Kohl-Riggs, currently not the subject of an ongoing John Doe investigation,” an allusion to Walker’s legal troubles from his time as Milwaukee County Executive.
“It’s either gross misconduct or gross negligence,” say Kohl-Riggs about Walker’s role in this scandal.
Kohl-Riggs was co-chair of the campus progressives at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse. He served in the student senate there, and went on to work for Greenpeace.
When the Wisconsin Uprising began, he was living a block and a half from the capitol and was working as a barista at a coffee shop. He recalls watching the debate on Walker’s anti-labor legislation on TV and being so outraged by the decision of the Republicans to cut off debate that he went to the capitol and signed up to speak, as Democrats held the hearing open.
“I testified in support of the people and against suppressing workers’ rights to organize,” he says. “Then I sat in on the hearing for the next nine or ten hours watching the citizens of the state trying to be heard.”
Joining the protests made a huge impact on him.
“I spent every night at the capitol during the occupation,” he says. “I was transformed by it. It was an amazing experience.”
Kohl-Riggs notes that “policy-wise, there’s a slew of things” that Walker has done that are anathema. “Whatever you value most, he has probably attacked that.”
He doesn’t single out any one issue, however. “For me, it boils down to his governing style,” says Kohl-Riggs, citing Walker’s “refusal to accept input from citizens he’s supposed to represent.” As examples, Kohl-Riggs mentions the budget repair, the mining bill, and the Voter ID bill, and the repeal of equal pay, among others. “Walker has an utter disregard for the concept of open government and transparency.” Instead of representing the people, Walker is representing his financiers, Kohl-Riggs says.
For his part, Kohl-Riggs is running a campaign on clean money. “I’m not soliciting donations from anyone outside of the state, and I’m accepting donations only up to $100,” he says. “The goal is reducing undue influence.”
Kohl-Riggs sports a Lincoln-style beard, which he started to wear during the capitol occupation.
“People say it makes me less serious,” Kohl-Riggs comments. “But I don’t have millions of dollars for TV time, so hopefully it invokes images and has people question what it means to be a Republican.”
If Walker wins not only the primary against him but against the Democrat on June 5, Kohl-Riggs says the lesson will be clear.
“Then the people of Wisconsin have failed to educate our neighbors,” he says, “and we will have underestimated the power of the corporate dollar to influence people’s decisions, and we’ll have to work a lot harder.”
But he believes Walker will actually lose on June 5. Says Kohl-Riggs: “People will see through the talking points.”
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story “Stop Obama’s Drone War in Pakistan."
Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter
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