MILWAUKEE, Wis. (NBC 26) — This November, Governor Tony Evers will seek a second term in office. As his campaign gets going, NBC 26 sat down with him for an exclusive one-on-one interview.
Looking back on his first four years in office, Evers says his tenure is marked by a number of successes.
"We have our lowest unemployment rate in the state's history," he said.
But Evers acnkowledges there have been challenges as well.
"What are some of the hardest things that have confronted you?" NBC 26 asked. "Certainly the pandemic. Covid-19 comes along once in a lifetime," Evers responded. "There are studies shown, University of Wisconsin-Madison studies show that we actually saved lives by having the shutdown order."
One of the biggest sources of division throughout the pandemic has been schools.
Evers now hopes to provide more resources for special ed and mental health in attempt to attract teachers into the classroom.
"We have to stop demonizing them, that's one thing," he said. "It's not that teachers don't make mistakes. Of course they do. They're human beings."
Another theme of the governor's first term: battles with a Republican legislature. They fought his Safer at Home order and recently denied Evers' plan to use a budget surplus to give $150 to all Wisconsin residents.
"I had a plan," he said. "I wish the legislature would've came into session to take care of it to provide some tax credit relief to people so that kind of mitigates that issue."
And another battle: the 2020 election. Evers believes it's time to move on.
"The person that lives down the block that works at the polling station is trying to mess with my vote," he said. "That's just not true. It's not true. It's never been true."
The governor came under criticism about his response to unrest in Kenosha following the shooting of Jacob Blake.
"Looking back at it, would you have done anything differently in the way the state dealt with that?" NBC 26 asked. "No," Evers responded. "You can talk to folks that were involved in it. We brought that National Guard in as soon as possible. Within 11 hours of that shooting, we had National Guardsmen and Women on the ground in Kenosha."
Records show he sent 125 National Guard members to Kenosha the next day.
Amid concerning crime trends, the governor says bail reform is absolutely needed. But he doesn’t think cash bonds should be scrapped.
"The whole risk-assessment analysis, that did not happen well in Waukesha," he said, referring to the Christmas parade tragedy.
Michigan and Illinois have legalized marijuana. And Wisconsin’s governor is open to recreational and medicinal.
"We have people going across the border paying taxes in another state, so it makes sense to me to do both," he said.
Today, as that first term comes to a close, Evers says there's more work ahead.
"That's why I'm running for reelection," he said. "There's lots of other things that we need to build upon going forward."