Shawano native and longtime legislative aide Craig Arrowood has officially announced his plans to run for the legislative seat occupied by his former boss, Gary Tauchen, who is not running for reelection.
For Arrowood, his plans to run for the Sixth District Assembly seat is a personal one. In an interview with NEW Media on April 7, the conservative Republican said that his mother passed away last year at the age of 57, and the death was ruled as a suicide.
“It was really hard for me, and I was trying to figure out everything I should do moving forward,” Arrowood said. “With Gary retiring and everything that happened with my mom and the family, I thought about my priorities and the thing that stuck in my side was the whole response to the lockdowns and the COVID, and I think that really hurt my mom more than I let on.”
Arrowood said that he had an issue that the initial decisions were made outside of the legislature, and he feels that the representatives of the people should be making the decisions on whether or not to close businesses, put people in quarantine and more. His goal in running for office is to support people and limit government.
“The big problem I had was that a lot of these decisions weren’t being made by elected officials and weren’t accountable to anyone,” Arrowood said. “The impacts they had on businesses and people and their day-to-day lives — when people are having to close and get paid to stay home from work — it really kind of struck me. People, through no fault of their own, had their lives flipped up.”
Mental health is a key issue for Arrowood, interwoven with the pandemic response. He noted that many of the students that had to deal with virtual learning in isolation could benefit from counseling and other services to deal with the emotional toll.
“It’s been a rough couple of years for everyone, but it’s been really bad for the kids,” Arrowood said.
Arrowood was Tauchen’s legislative aide since 2007 and only stepped down this week to focus on his campaign, but he’s running on his roots as a native son more than his experience with clerking for Tauchen.
“I worried about the idea of being labeled for being down in Madison,” Arrowood said. “It’d be one thing if I lived down in Illinois, but I was helping the guy who represented the area. There are definitely some pluses and minuses to it.”
One of the things he is most proud of during his time working for Tauchen was in 2011 when the representative was heading up the election committee for the Assembly and develop voter identification polls in an effort to cut down on fraud. Arrowood noted that many district attorneys did not have evidence to go after many fraud cases, and some voters were having trust issues with the elections, so requirements to sign a log book and abolishing the vouching regulations where someone could say another person is a resident were established.
“I was really proud of that,” Arrowood said.
Arrowood said the final straw for him in deciding whether to become a candidate was when he saw a tweet for Rep. Lee Snodgrass, a Democrat from Appleton, who said that anyone who wants a say in their children’s education should enroll them in private school or homeschool them. Snodgrass has since deleted the tweet and apologized.
“We’re talking about people’s lives here,” Arrowood said.
Having the local credentials is something that Arrowood expects will help him in the long run, as much of the district encompasses 95% of Shawano County, along with segments of Brown, Waupaca and Outagamie counties.
“I’m experienced, but I’m also proud that I’m from Shawano,” Arrowood said. “Being able to say ‘That’s where I was born. That’s where I graduated’ — everytime I’ve been given the choice, I’ve come back to Shawano. I think that’s going to be a strength in my favor and says something about my character that Gary kept me around for so long.”
Population decline in rural areas is a key concern for Arrowood, who noted that it’s caused strife with the Shawano School District. He said that the pandemic requiring many to do work remotely was not a good thing for rural families because of the lack of quality internet infrastructure.
“We have to realize that access to broadband proved that internet in the counties is a huge deal. It’s basically the equivalent of the railroads in the 1800s,” Arrowood said. “If you don’t have that, you’re behind the eight-ball. If you give them access to quality internet that’s useful for work, I think Shawano could start to grow a little bit.”
He added that city and county leaders have done as good as they can “with the tools they’ve been given” but feels the state could do more to help rural communities thrive instead of wither.
“Legislators and lobbyists have all these great ideas, but they kind of skip past helping the average-day person,” Arrowood said. “I’m hoping to bring back some stability. I know people from Wisconsin, especially our county, are resilient. They just need a little bit of help from me and the other legislators down in Madison.”