Gapske, Sapik seek first term in Wisconsin Assembly
Voters will decide Nov. 8 who will represent the 73rd District; early voting starts Tuesday, Oct. 25.
SUPERIOR — Voters in the Wisconsin Assembly’s 73rd District will have a clean slate to consider when they head to the polls Nov. 8.
For the first time since 2008, an incumbent won’t appear on the ballot.
That rare opportunity prompted Democratic candidate Laura Gapske of Superior and Republican candidate Angie Sapik of Lake Nebagamon to enter the race.
Sapik said she was approached by a few different people about running for office, including the Republican candidate for the state Senate, Romaine Quinn.
“I was heavily debating running when I heard the seat would be vacant,” Sapik said. “I’ve been disheartened by government overreach and irresponsible government spending in recent years, and I thought we needed someone in office who was strong enough to stand up for responsible spending and smaller government.”
Gapske said it was her honor to be asked to run for the seat by the American Federation of Teachers.
“It was a serious decision, and I took time before making the decision to run,” Gapske said. “Ultimately, I decided that my experience and dedication to serving my community would make me a good candidate. I am a passionate grassroots leader who has demonstrated my ability to create community channels, which foster spaces to listen and share experiences with other people.
One challenge facing voters this year is the rising cost of living. And while both candidates agree that Madison could soften that burden by returning billions in surplus state revenue to taxpayers, they differ in their approach.
“I think it’s important to provide context on the issue of inflation,” Gapske said. “Unfortunately, inflation is a global issue that is affecting countries regardless of leadership and governance. But I don’t believe we are helpless.”
Wisconsin ended fiscal year 2022 with a record $4.3 billion surplus and the state’s Budget Stabilization (Rainy Day) Fund is at a record high of $1.73 billion, according to the Wisconsin Department of Administration.
“The vast majority of that money should be returned to taxpayers as a tax cut to help them deal with the effects of the Biden economy and inflation,” Sapik said. “Families need more money in their pocket to deal with rising costs.”
Sapik said she would support state policies that support energy independence in Wisconsin to reduce gas and energy prices.
“If I’m elected I will fight for policies that make gas and groceries affordable again,” Sapik said.
Gapske said as a single parent she’s felt the pain of inflation at the gas pump and the grocery store.
“I think it’s imperative the Republican-led Legislature stops withholding that money from Wisconsin taxpayers,” Gapske said. “We have struggling families who could use that money now. It’s sad to see people across the aisle playing politics when the hardworking people of northern Wisconsin are having a tough time putting food on the table.”
Both candidates agree that government can have a significant impact on people simply trying to pursue their version of the American dream.
“Government overreach, particularly since the onslaught of COVID-19, has been unmatched in recent decades,” Sapik said. “People should be able to go to work without worrying about vaccine requirements. We need fewer regulations across the map, and we need to ensure that people that want to open businesses are able to.”
Gapske said personal freedom is at stake in this election like never before. From the efforts to suppress the vote to women losing the right to have autonomy over their bodies since the reversal of Roe V. Wade, Gapske said she will fight for voters.
“The government has no right to stand between a patient and their doctor,” Gapske said. “Abortion is a nuanced issue, and every circumstance is different. You cannot and should not legislate away a person’s right to make the decisions that are best for them, especially in instances of rape, child abuse and incest.
In 2020, the most basic tenant of the republic’s democracy — the vote — was challenged.
“Win or lose, I will accept the results of the election on Nov. 8,” Gapske said. After all, election officials and county clerks are dedicated public servants who found themselves in harm’s way after baseless claims were made about the 2020 election, she said.
“It’s been shown time and time again that our elections are overwhelmingly safe and secure, but I believe there is a lot of work to be done to ensure fair representation. Wisconsin is about as purple as they come and yet the Republican Legislature continues to adopt the most gerrymandered legislative maps in the country … Allowing our legislative maps to be drawn by a nonpartisan entity is a necessary step to help restore faith in our elections," Gapske said.
New legislative maps following the 2020 U.S. Census went into effect in April after the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s conservative majority selected a redistricting plan crafted by Republican lawmakers.
“I would absolutely accept the results of the 2022 election if there is no obvious proof of fraud,” Sapik said. “Our system may not be perfect, but it does work, and I believe in a person’s right to vote along with the right to make sure their vote is counted.”
In addition, she said steps have been taken to protect the ballot such as eliminating unattended ballot drop boxes.
“I’m in favor of anything that protects the sanctity of our voting system and protects a person’s ballot from being tampered with,” Sapik said.
In talking to people, Sapik said she knows inflation is a top concern.
“While we can’t write legislation to halt inflation itself, we can take measure to reduce the impacts inflation has on us,” Sapik said. “I believe this is the most important thing I can do to serve voters; it is my No. 1 priority.”
As an elected official, Gapske said she knows the job involves being an advocate to tackle issues impacting the region.
“It will be my job to listen to constituents and work to understand their issues … folks are concerned about rising prices, infrastructure and community safety,” Gapske said. “I’ll lean on my legislative experience to work toward the common good and to make all constituents feel heard.”
Family: 2 sons: Landon James, 18; and Mannix James, 12
Business/employment: Director of Programs at Men as Peacemakers, Owner at LG Principles Expert Witness and Consulting, LLC
Education: Bachelor of Science from the University of Wisconsin-Superior, part-time student at Hamline University for Master’s Degree in the Study of Law.
Government and/or civic experience and organizations: Presently serving as Superior Human Trafficking Task Force Commission chairperson; Superior School District board clerk; Cooperative Educational Service Agency #12, board of control member and delegate; Sex Trafficking Awareness Month Committee; and Sexual Assault Multidisciplinary Action Response Team (SMART) Committee, PAVSA.
In the past, served as Center Against Sexual and Domestic Abuse board member; St. Louis County Health and Human Services MDT/Mortality Review Team co-chairperson; Children’s Justice Initiative-Juvenile Sex Trafficking Sub-Committee; North Central Windows Program board member; domestic violence advocate, Men As Peacemakers, Domestic Abuse Transition Restorative Justice Circle; Inter-agency Committee on Domestic Violence, DAIP; Anti-Sex Trafficking Task Force Steering Committee, PAVSA; and St. Louis County Multidisciplinary Team Member and MDT Coordinator-First Witness CAC.
Why are you the best candidate to serve the 73rd District and what will your priorities be?
“Personally and professionally, I have held many roles that give relevant insights to the needs of the position. I have an in-depth perspective on policies and procedures, 19+ years working with adults, children, and families experiencing violence, trauma, and/or homelessness. I have extensive experience building coalitions and communities through a multidisciplinary approach to decision-making on public health issues. The skills acquired throughout my career closely mirror the qualifications to take on these important public policy issues in Madison on behalf of Northwestern Wisconsin residents.
“Once elected, my priorities will be improving community safety including mental health and addiction, supporting our public schools and continuing to invest in and improve upon our infrastructure in Northern Wisconsin. Also, I plan to rent office space in the southern part for those constituents in Burnett and Washburn Counties to be more accessible.”
Address: Lake Nebagamon
Family: Husband Nathan; 5-year-old son, Calvin, 4-year-old daughter, Reba
Business/employment: Produce buyer specializing in onions
Education: Human Services degree
Government and/or civic experience and organizations: Elks Lodge member for 10 years
Why are you the best candidate to serve the 73rd District and what will your priorities be?
"I’m not a title collector. I’m just a regular citizen of the 73rd District who saw an opportunity to make a difference by jumping into the arena. My career has taught me a lot about the supply chain, our food sources, transportation, and how inflation has affected all of those things. I will bring the expertise of working in the agriculture field with me to this position, and I think real world experience is crucial for legislators making laws that affect people and businesses on a daily basis."