Candidates still have plenty of campaigning before the Republican Convention. Many in Wisconsin are still undecided on who they will vote for.
Jessie Cannizzaro grew up visiting job sites alongside her father who ran his own plumbing business.
‘I had helped him for years as growing up,’ Cannizzaro said. ‘I had a renewed interest as an adult doing the hands on, seeing what you accomplish at the end of the day. Working on paperwork doesn’t bring that same joy. And so I realized that the trades would be a better calling for me.’
At 80 years old, her father still takes up projects from time to time but didn’t exactly want his daughter following in his footsteps.
‘He’s very old school, and I think part of it was he wanted to protect me. He didn’t think that the world was ready for women in nontraditional roles,’ Cannizzaro said. ‘Also, I think as every parent does, Dad had a vision of grandchildren and he thought that that would mean no grandkids. But you can do both. You don’t have to pick and choose.’
Thanks to the exposure she had at a young age, she started her own plumbing business. Next year she plans to take over as chair of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin. She hopes to inspire more young people to pick up trade skills.
‘I spend a lot of time advocating for two different associations. We go into schools. We used to just do high school and try to get to those kids and let them know that there were opportunities in the trades that existed. But a lot of times high schoolers have already decided they need to go to college,’ Cannizzaro said.
She notes that trade careers have high salaries and are in high demand. Most skilled jobs also aren’t under pressure from artificial intelligence.
‘There are some advancements with different technology that’s come out, but you still need a service person to come to your door,’ Cannizzaro said.
She’s undecided on who will get her vote in 2024 but wants to vote for someone who will address the need for more skilled workers.
‘I think we have to start leading from the top to let people know that the trades deserve just as much respect that any college degree job also deserves,’ Cannizzaro said. ‘Right now that message isn’t being conveyed the way that we need it to. It’s something that often gets lost or forgotten about.’
Richard Gagliano is the director of apartment life at a student housing complex within the Milwaukee School of Engineering. He says he occasionally speaks with students about their political opinions.
‘I was a history teacher and try to tell them is like, this is what it was like and this is this. It’s fun to challenge them,’ Gagliano said.
One of his top issues is education at the high school and elementary school level. He thinks schools need to do more to help students graduate and advance to higher education or skilled learning.
‘It’s not an issue of subject matter,’ Gagliano said. ‘I’m just more in favor of having the school board decide that with the teachers. They’re the professionals. And what should be done in those schools.’
Richard is undecided when it comes to who he will support for the presidency. He says candidates like Will Hurd, Mike Pence and Robert F Kennedy JR. have all peaked his interest, but he’s hoping a dark horse races forward to lead the pack.
‘I love dark horses. I think that’s why none of my candidates ever won in the past,’ Gagliano said.
Gagliano has supported candidates from both parties over the past four decades. Just a few include Bob Dole and Al Gore. In more recent elections he has backed Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
‘What my friends constantly say is, ‘Why Donald Trump?’ I truthfully thought Donald Trump was the guy who was going to come in and shake things up,’ Gagliano said. ‘Then he surprised me every day with what could possibly go wrong… Maybe Biden would bring us together. It didn’t work. But Hillary, I thought the glass ceiling, I didn’t vote for her when she ran against Trump, but I voted for her in the primary because I felt at that particular moment she might have been the best Democratic candidate.’
Emilio De Torre never misses an election and is the executive director of a local civic group. He lives in Milwaukee with his wife and three kids. He often considers his family when deciding who to vote for.
‘School is very expensive,’ De Torre said. ‘We discuss what we’re considering for issues together as a family. I’ve got my oldest who just started college. One’s middle school, one’s in high school. So life gets a little costly.’
De Torre says health care and minimum wage are other top issues for him. He wants to hear from candidates that address those.
‘I think that’s a strong economy and quality of life for our interdependence, and I think they should be co-equal goals,’ De Torre said. ‘For families choosing how they’re going to ensure their loved ones in their family, what they have to knock off the table. That’s a very costly option to weigh in when you’re also taking a look at how much you’re making per hour.’
De Torre works for a nonprofit. He says his company offers a $16 per hour minimum wage.
‘When I first came on as executive director three years ago, it was considerably less. And we found with so many folks having difficulties hiring people, that we needed to make it something so that people that worked there felt comfortable working there and they could maybe begin to think that this is a job I’d like to stay in,’ De Torre said.
Sarah Grooms is also focused on economic issues. She works in finance and chairs the policy committee for the Waukesha County Business Alliance.
‘We can kind of see it just with semiconductor chips recently, right. And all of the chaos that was caused during COVID and how we it just brought the entire supply chain to a halt,’ Grooms said. ‘So that’s just one little instance of the way that a foreign economy could affect ours if they choose to say, ‘we’re not going to sell you those anymore.’’
Grooms says her background aligns closely with libertarian ideals. She plans to vote in the Republican primary for a candidate who could address her top issues.
‘There’s never a perfect candidate. And so it really comes down to who can work with as many people as possible to get what America needs,’ Grooms said.
She hopes the more she hears from the candidates, the better she can decide on who to vote for. She also believes a lot of Wisconsin voters feel the same way.
‘I think there’s a reason that it’s always a battleground state,’ Grooms said. ‘I think there’s a reason that everyone needs to come here and prove their chops.’