Chase Binnie, Republican Candidate for Wisconsin's 80th District State Assembly Seat
July 30, 2020
When Chase Binnie was a student, he studied for a time in Venezuela, which most observers agree today is run by an authoritarian regime.
"It wasn't a very good situation then, and it got worse and worse over the years," says Binnie, who now lives in Mount Horeb and is running as a Republican for Wisconsin's 80th District State Assembly seat. "I kept in touch with a lot of my friends from there, and a lot of them had to flee, and things like that, over the years, have helped me realize that the concentration of power – whether in a few people, or corporations – is not a good thing."
Binnie is running on the right in a district that is heavily progressive, thanks in part to years of gerrymandering. But while he is a Republican – he favors small government, personal liberties and the Second Amendment – he is also a new kind of Republican in the Midwest. Binnie is far less concerned with the social issues that some of his predecessors legislated at the Capitol, and he says he is focused on protecting the environment.
Binnie took part in the Black Lives Matter rally held in Mount Horeb earlier this year, and he says some of the old political battle lines no longer make sense in the year 2020.
"I went to the Black Lives Matter march in Mount Horeb because these are people in my district," says Binnie. "And they have legitimate concerns for black justice. If I can learn more about what people need and want, I can do a better job."
He says wealth has become too concentrated, a common concern of people on the left, and his proposed solutions rely on a conservative fiscal ideology.
"How can you feel camaraderie with someone like Jeff Bezos, who could literally buy your whole city?" Binnie muses.
Binnie lives with his wife and their young children, as well as the family's pet pig. He is a real estate broker, and he says his interest in politics grew last year.
"One of the main reasons was my two daughters," he says. "I want a good life for them."
Binnie observed that political rhetoric on social media was "crazy" and "divided." He says people there seem immersed in what he calls "political theology," where opposing views are seen as heretical, that they had stopped even attempting to find common ground. But in face-to-face interactions he discovered something different. In real life, he says people are less political, and less divided, and that gave him hope.
"It felt so good to just meet people and talk face-to-face," he says. "It's so different than what the media portrays, in the nation and in this state; this climate that is almost like a civil war."
"Especially in Dane County, conservatives sometimes don't even want to bring up politics, because they are in the minority here," he says.
"But I've met people on the left who have great ideas about clean energies, and I've met a lot of people on the right who are very laissez-faire about how people want to live their lives, including the LGBT community."
Binnie says at the age of 18 he wanted to help change the world in order to end poverty and warfare. Now, as an adult, he sees a chance to get involved at the state level and affect real change in people's lives.
"I'd like to be a conservative for conservatives, but also for moderate progressives who maybe feel like they don't have a voice," he says.
"I'm one of the few Republicans who dares to talk about clean energy," Binnie says. "I've always believed that we need to care for the climate and be wise with our limited resources."
"I support a market-based approach to energy policy that embraces technology innovation," he adds. "Prices for solar and wind are now cheaper than coal and natural gas. Modern nuclear systems are smaller, safer, and they are being developed by our very own UW engineers. I see a bright future where consumers can make economical choices based on their values."
Win or lose, he has a message he wants to spread: "One thing I hope my campaign can do is show liberals that not all conservatives are bad, and show conservatives that not all liberals are bad."
"On any given issue, I think people can discern for themselves which parts make sense and which ones don't," he explains. "I think I can do that."
In November, Binnie will face whoever wins the August 11 Democratic primary, in which incumbent Sondy Pope will face challenger Kimberly Smith. Pope has been a vocal critic of the state's school voucher program.
"One of the big things for me is quality education," Binnie says. "Isn't that what everyone wants for their kids? A quality education? I do approach it very differently from the incumbent, because I want parents to have more decisions; I want parents to have more power."
Binnie says public schools are vital, but they do not work for everyone.
"There are cases where there is just too much bullying, where the parents try to make it work but they just can't, and the kids need something else," he states. "Or, sometimes it's just a matter of different learning styles."
"Our school voucher program has been wildly successful in Wisconsin, and it allows the money to follow the student so it can be used for their education," he says. "In Wisconsin, we are supposed to provide a quality education for every student, but it doesn't say it has to be the exact same government school for every student."
"People say they are unaccountable, but they abide by the same standards and often show higher test scores," he states. "I think if a student is learning to read, it doesn't matter which school it's at. And financially, I think it makes sense."
"Healthy competition improves all of our lives, and competition is also tied to accountability," he adds.
"I am a supporter of public schools, and my goal is always to improve the outcome for students," says Binnie. "We've been increasing school funding with bi-partisan approval, but I'd like to go further. I support Wisconsin's parental choice program which gives parents access to diverse options for their child and helps improve the quality of education through healthy competition."
"This is especially important now, because parents are at the whim of the school district whether they will have virtual or in-class learning," he continues. "Local childcare centers are already pre-booked at full capacity. How will parents afford to take off work? One mom in my district said she plans to have her 12-year-old stay home all day with her four-year-old. That worries me."
"My broader philosophy is based on a business mindset," Binnie continues. "In government, you should have to think about the value you are providing to your customers in order to earn your paycheck."
"In government, I think sometimes we have lost that," he says. "It's like just trying to plant trees no matter what type of soil you have. We need to come up with solutions that will actually work for people."
Binnie is also a strong supporter of the right to bear arms.
"I think the Second Amendment is an important right," he says. "I think it's an important right we should defend. I actually started a group called DC2A (Dane County Second Amendment), because firearm sales went through the roof during the pandemic, and with so many first-time gun owners out there I think it's very important that people learn firearm safety."
"With riots and talk of defunding the police, it got a lot of people thinking of these scenarios where a mob comes to your house, and from my perspective that's thousands of new gun owners in the area, and owning a gun is a heavy responsibility, so with our group we hope to provide some education about how to be a responsible gun owner," he says.
He says true progress won't come from force, though. It will come from people working together to achieve a better union.
"The thing is, you can rally people together pretty effectively with anger, but you can't really change anyone's mind with it," he says. "You can't convince anyone of anything using anger. In my view, it should be a choice when people decide."
At home, Binnie is waiting to find out which Democrat he will face in November. He says he hopes the campaign will give people a chance to be heard, and a chance to hear new ideas, whether they come from the party of elephants or the party of donkeys.
And he really does have a pig.
"We do have a pet pig," he says with a chuckle. "When my daughter turned three, she said she wanted one. We laughed about it, but a week later my wife was researching pet pigs, and it kind of went from a joke to a reality. His name is Willie, and he is easier to train than I thought. He likes sweet potatoes and watermelons, and we get some leftover produce for him from the grocery store, too."