BELOIT - Republican incumbent Rep. Amy Loudenbeck will see something she has not been accustomed to on Nov. 6 - a serious challenger for her Assembly District 31 job.
Loudenbeck's district has been considered safe since the Republican majority drew new district lines after the 2010 elections. In 2014, she was unopposed. In 2016, she defeated Democrat challenger Clinton Anderson - now a member of the Beloit City Council - nearly 2-1.
In 2018, Loudenbeck is challenged by Democrat newcomer Dr. Brittany Keyes of Beloit, who is employed by the Beloit Health System. Keyes says she is running to improve healthcare, education, the economy and the lives of working people.
She plans to improve access to and the affordability of healthcare by promoting the use of telemedicine, and wants to accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid or Badgercare - which Loudenbeck has opposed. Keyes said additional dollars would decrease the number of the uninsured residents and lower costs overall.
To ensure every student has a quality education, Keyes is in favor of adequately funding public schools and adjusting the school funding formula.
"School districts and boards could plan and budget accordingly and not have to turn to referendums as often, thus putting increased burden on the taxpayers," Keyes said.
Keyes also wants to protect environmental assets and bring more family-supporting jobs to the area. She's in favor of raising the minimum wage, but is unsure by how much.
She's in favor of investing in small businesses and farms as opposed to multinational companies where the state might not see a return on investment, citing Foxconn as an example. She said the $4 billion offered to Foxconn would translate to helping 181 small businesses in the 99 districts in the state.
Keyes, who identifies as pro-hunting and said she supports Second Amendment rights, said she wants to advocate for responsible gun ownership while doing everything she can to protect people from danger. She is supportive of closing loopholes surrounding background checks, keeping guns out of the hands of those with domestic violence records and promoting safe gun storage.
Keyes supports protections in the Affordable Care Act, such as coverage for pre-existing conditions. She's also in favor of adding a preventative annual mental health checkup as part of one's insurance benefits.
She's in favor of the nonpartisan Iowa model of legislative redistricting to prevent gerrymandering.
When asked if she would stray from her party, she said she would be able to respectfully disagree and vote her own way when necessary.
Instead of funding road projects with increasing debt, Keyes said she would be in favor of looking at other areas to increase revenue for new infrastructure.
Keyes is also a supporter of government transparency and would advocate the partisan caucuses be subject to open meeting laws.
She attended the University of Iowa where she earned her bachelor of science degree in Athletic Training in 2008 and doctorate of physical therapy degree in 2011. Keyes, 32, and her husband, Doug, live in Beloit with their young daughter. Keyes works as a physical therapist and athletic trainer for Beloit Health System.
Loudenbeck is seeking re-election to her fifth term. She said she has a strong track record of serving as a resource and an advocate and said she is a good listener, hard worker and trusted leader.
"I am a compassionate conservative with ideas to protect and aid our most vulnerable populations," she said.
She wants to work to close the achievement gap and reform the criminal justice system.
One of her priorities is healthcare. She favors expanding health delivery services such as mobile integrated health and telemedicine to reduce costs. She would be opposed to accepting federal money for Medicaid expansion, though, saying the solution is not more money or the government paying more for healthcare.
She supports investing in infrastructure, from the interstate to local roads and bridges. She was in favor of incentives offered to the Foxconn project, which she said would be transformative for the state.
To increase participation in the workforce, she is promoting new programs like WI Fast Forward and Food Stamp Employment Training. She's also in support of worker training and assistance for addiction and recovery while inmates are incarcerated.
She said she would be in favor of making the partisan caucuses subject to open meeting laws as long as strategy is not being discussed.
When asked if she would support independent nonpartisan redistricting, she said she would be willing to support an analysis of what other states are doing.
To improve education, she would be in support of fully funding special education. It would be a way to get money into every school district based on something that is quantifiable.
"We need to fully fund the obligations we have," she said.
Loudenbeck said she is happy to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle, noting 91 percent of all bills signed into law during the 2017-2018 legislative session were bipartisan.
"Over half the bills that I authored last session had a Democrat as the second lead author," she said.
Loudenbeck, 49, started working at the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce in January of 2003 as Executive Director of the Business Materials Exchange of Wisconsin (BMEx). She was promoted to Government Relations Director in 2005, Vice President in 2007 and Interim President in 2009. She lives in the Clinton area with her husband Matt.