RHINELANDER - The mining issue might decide the winner of the 25th State senate district. The huge district covers a large portion of northern Wisconsin stretching from parts of Vilas County to parts of Barron County. Two types of mines have caused controversy in the district. A proposed taconite mine in the north, and sand mines in the west.
Gogebic Taconite is proposing a four-mile open pit taconite mine in Ashland and Iron County. Project leaders say the project will lead to 700 direct jobs, as well as numerous spillover jobs because of the construction of the mine.
Republicans rewrote and passed the state's mining law in 2013. Many believe the rule change weakened water protections, but Republican candidate Dane Deutsch doesn't agree.
"I think the key is that folks need to realize that there is enough in that mining law to allow responsible mining and have accountability," Deutsch said.
However, Deutsch's opponent Rep. Janet Bewley (D-Ashland) believes the laws don't protect the environment.
The district is also dealing with a number of sand mines. Companies use the sand while fracking to drill for natural gas. Bewley isn't against mining. She says she's just against what mining can be under current state law.
"It takes away a lot of the ability of local people in local communities to have a say in the decisions that concern them," Bewley said.
That's only one issue in the 25th Senate district. Deutsch believes the area needs broadband now. He thinks his IT experience from his time in the military can help.
"We should be able to find other alternatives for getting people broadband so that folks can actually increase their entrepreneurism," Deutsch.
Bewley agrees about broadband. She believes the area won't catch up economically without the technology.
"Until we get all of northern Wisconsin into the 21st Century, like the rest of the state, we're at a competitive disadvantage," Bewley said.
Deutsch lost the 2010 race to longtime State Senator Bob Jauch (D- Poplar) by about 1800 votes. Deutsch says he wants to advocate for the district.
"I'm willing to be that person that is going to champion our businesses, champion our schools, our education, more importantly, and champion our resources," Deutsch said.
Meanwhile, Bewley says she wants to represent the people.
"I am not there to take a stand on an ideology, nor am I there to take a sword to somebody," Bewley said.
Deutsch and Bewley also agreed that rural schools and fund for the schools are a major focus of their campaign.
Deutsch owns a gym and coaches gymnastics in Rice Lake. Bewley has represented part of the area in the 74th Assembly district since 2011.
A Democrat has represented the 25th Senate district for more than 25 years.
Voters will decide if that will continue Tuesday.