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UPDATE: Candidate Moore - Expanding her classroom

Ellsworth teacher Shelly Moore announced her candidacy for the state senate in Hudson on May 3. Photo by Margaret Ontl

There was no joking on April 1 when Shelly Moore decided to run against Sheila Harsdorf in a 10th Senate District recall election.

She was teaching some very smart juniors and seniors in an advanced placement literature class at Ellsworth High School.

On April 1 the class learned that Gov. Scott Walker would end the college tuition reciprocity agreement between Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Many of Moore's students were enrolled for the fall at a college in Minnesota.

"There was confusion in the class about understanding just what that decision would mean," Moore said. "My students were going to be impacted, and some were in tears."

Moore said that's just one example of how "working families" are being hurt by the new Republican governor's extreme policies.

And Moore claims Harsdorf is out of touch with that pain as she follows whatever legislation Walker proposes.

Unlike Harsdorf, who's served in the state Legislature for more than two decades and has never lost an election, Moore begins with a much lower public name recognition.

So, just who is she?

The 37-year-old was born in Woodruff (near Minocqua) and, after her parents divorced, split her time growing up between there and Beloit.

She has a bachelor's degree from UW-Stevens Point in English education and political science. In 2006 she earned a master's from UW-River Falls.

She's taught English and drama at Ellsworth High School for 13 years.

Moore lives in River Falls near the university. She's divorced and has no children.

Her local family connections date to the late 1800s when Norwegian ancestors arrived in the United States. Her great-grandfather, Allan Beggs, was appointed postmaster of Hudson by President William McKinley in 1898.

Beggs was also a charter member of the Hudson Elks, chairman of the St. Croix County Board of Supervisors, and operated the Hudson toll bridge.

Moore says teaching is in her blood. Her mother taught English and French. Her father taught industrial arts (shop), including drafting and construction welding classes.

Her grandfather was a teacher and principal, while a great aunt taught math in Chippewa Falls before being forced to retire when she became pregnant.

"You have to have a certain temperament for teaching," Moore said. "That includes patience, listening and sensing the best in all the people that you meet."

Moore said she only briefly resisted the teaching urge.

"Like all kids, I wanted to do something different, maybe go to law school, but something different, anyway, than what my parents had done," she said. "But I didn't resist the teaching urge for very long. I realized it was my calling and knew it was meant to be."

Moore was drawn to English and drama because they revolve around creative, subjective outcomes.

"In math, you usually have one answer," she said. "In English/drama you are helping students find their own voices for expressing themselves. It's very fluid."

Moore considers herself lucky to be teaching in a smaller, rural school district like Ellsworth.

"It's a phenomenal place to be with a high standard of excellence, very supportive administrators, school board and staff, and just a close-knit group of students and families.

"Ellsworth has given me this great opportunity to work as a teacher. I've had other opportunities, but I haven't looked for another job."

Despite the recent political upheaval in Madison and the ensuing 10th Senate District recall petition, Moore says she's not running for public office "out of anger or frustration."

She views her candidacy as another teaching experience -- working with constituents to reach consensus on problems and then offering solutions.

"I am blessed with certain skills," she said. "People are hurting. I have a chance to help them."

Moore says what's needed is a return to grassroots democracy -- one tied to Wisconsin's famed Progressive moment pioneered by early 20th century Republicans.

She said current Republicans and Harsdorf are "...out of touch with constituents who feel betrayed on more than one issue."

"Senator Harsdorf has changed. She's in lockstep with Gov. Walker, and that is what has become unacceptable for our district."

While Moore recognized that candidate Walker won Pierce and St. Croix counties and the state of Wisconsin in last November's election, she said he didn't reveal his radical policies until taking office as governor.

"In Wisconsin, the majority doesn't ignore the minority," she said. "We sit down, have a conversation and bring people together. Wisconsin has never been a state that does things entirely on party lines."

Speaking of party, Moore says her views and those of her constituents will trump the Democratic Party line. One example of her independence: Guns.

"Being from northern Wisconsin where getting a shotgun on your 12th birthday is a rite of passage, I can tell you that I'm very pro-gun," she said.

While her party is often labeled "Tax-and-Spend Democrats," Moore calls herself a "fiscal conservative."

"Yes, I have that reputation at school, both as head of my (English) department and of the theater program," Moore said, adding that she's not above saving and reusing lumber and screws for play props and insisting that water be continually added " make paint last longer."

She promised to apply that same practical scrutiny while poring over state budgets.

"Absolutely," she said. "I'm a researcher, a studier, and I will be looking for budget errors and duplication."

Moore said she stands for not just job creation, but "...finding and building new jobs that are sustainable, well-paying and require the appropriate training."

"We have to be innovative about job creation and work with companies that keep up with the times," she said.

Moore is against corporate tax breaks that finance more Walmart-type jobs.

She supports opportunities for cutting-edge companies that offer high paying jobs with a "...certain level of education." These, she says, stimulate local economies and boost tax revenue.

Moore said it was absurd for Walker and Republicans to pass corporate tax breaks as soon as they took office before confronting the state's massive budget deficit.

"From my view, that's not good budgeting because it just made the deficit worse."

Moore said that unlike Minnesota, Wisconsin is overdue for a "tax incidence study."

"This analyzes the tax structure in a nonpartisan way to see if the taxes are being fairly applied," she said. "Minnesota does this kind of study every year. Wisconsin hasn't done one since 2004."

Moore said in the last seven years, property tax burdens have shifted unfairly, especially for senior citizens.

Moore said a new tax incidence study may also show places where "...corporations are not paying their fair share of taxes."

Moore is critical of the breakdown in the art of politics.

"The democratic process in Wisconsin has gone by the wayside," she said. "People are not being engaged, and there is a rush to get legislation pushed through."

Moore said voter I.D. and carried concealed weapon bills are being fast tracked without adequate "public input."

"My overarching theme as a candidate is having a return to representative democracy," Moore said. "That means listening to constituents as a way to work things out."

Teachers and public employee unions have felt the brunt of Walker's budget saving legislation, but Moore is unafraid of campaigning with the "teacher" label.

"I'm very proud to be a teacher," she said. "I'm not going to shy away from that at all. My record as an educator is one of doing being the best I can be."

Moore said she'll vigorously defend her positions, but won't "...engage in bully politics."

She said, however, that "the opposition" has wasted no time in "name calling" since she declared her candidacy May 3 in Hudson.

One of those names, "Kool-Aid candidate," was used by St. Croix County Republican Party Chairman Jesse Garza.

Moore said she has a "broad range of experiences" besides teaching that she brings as a candidate.

"For one thing, I worked my way through college as the manager of a bait-and tackle shop," she said.

Moore said the governor's budget cuts for schools solve nothing. "All it does is shift the responsibility to local taxpayers if they want to maintain their good schools."

She thinks the state's school-aid formula must be changed.

"Right now it penalizes school districts, especially those in our area, that are land rich (higher property values), but people poor (lower incomes)," she said.

Rather than partisan politics, Moore says policies should be shaped by those most affected by them.

"There's untapped potential out there from farmers, working families and seniors if we could just make use of it," she said. "There are solutions, but we need to listen to the people."

Moore said that's her strategy she'll use to win the recall election.

"I'm going to be talking to as many people as I can," she said. "People have a strong desire to be listened to. I will be there for them. That will be a change from the way it's been lately."