Twenty years ago

Politics is a tough business.

When I decided to run for Congress, my friends told me the GOP would go through my life searching for anything and everything they could find to use against me. Republicans would use every tool they had to highlight the times when I was at my worst.

My friends told me that the real way I would know our campaign had momentum was by how hard these Republican groups worked to try and stop us.

You probably saw the story. Twenty years ago I got an OUI in Michigan. I had a few too many beers, and I made the terrible decision to drive home.

It was dumb. Inexcusable. I was immature and made a horrible, thoughtless decision. I have never forgotten this. I’m not proud of it. I’ve worked every day since to be a man my son can look up to.

But because of this, I personally experienced a small part of our country’s criminal justice system.

My legal troubles carried on because showing up to court meant I had to leave the job site and risk my paycheck. When I had a suspended license for the OUI, I got fined for not showing up to court– because I couldn’t find a ride to get to court and couldn’t drive myself. I tried to show up to court another time, only to be told that the court was closed after I made the trip to Michigan. None of this excuses my mistakes and bad decisions.

I know from my own life experiences and mistakes that our criminal justice system needs to be reformed. I know how the system is rigged, especially against working people who rely on their jobs to pay bills, buy food and just try to make ends meet. I’ve met people that have to scrape together money for bail and legal fees. I’ve talked to the people that cannot even afford the cost of a speeding ticket they got while rushing to work. I know what it’s like to miss a full day’s pay to be in court or make enough to buy groceries for the week. I know because I’ve been there.

When I was arrested, I was knee deep in medical bills because of my cancer treatment, and was struggling in ways that were embarrassing and devastating. I was focused on how to make it through the day and paying back my medical bills outweighed losing a day of work. No one should ever be put in this situation.

I’m not alone– millions of Americans know what it is like to face off with our criminal justice system and lose.

There are two different systems of justice in this country: one for the rich, and one for working people. The current system means one bad day can follow you around for years while others can afford to spend the time and money to get things cleared up, as if they never even happened.

My opponents going after me for every struggle in my life isn’t surprising. They’ve never had to make the choices me and thousands of others have had to make. They haven’t had a bad decision follow them around, even twenty years later. It’s easy for them to dehumanize and judge and sling mud—their actions show their privilege.

While Republicans try to tear our campaign down, we will focus on building up. Our campaign is in construction, not demolition—and we’re building for the people.

The Republican machine is going all in, but I’m not scared because I have one thing they don’t– I have all of you. I have Wisconsin’s working families on my side. The people who know what it’s like to struggle, what it’s like to make tough decisions because a paycheck came in late, and what it’s like to face off with an unfair system.

I am an ironworker. I am a cancer survivor. I am a veteran. I am also a man who has made mistakes, including one 20 years ago. But I’m more than my mistakes–and I hope you will continue to join me in this fight so working people can make it to Congress and change the system to help the many, not the few.