Steven Walters
The State of Politics

Roth, Rodriguez Battle For Lt. Governor

The two could hardly be more different in their background, experience and political views.

By - Aug 22nd, 2022 10:55 am
Roger Roth and Sara Rodriguez.

Roger Roth and Sara Rodriguez.

In boxing, it’s called the “undercard” — those slugging it out before the main-event, big name fighters. So, who are the undercarders in the main event for governor, the campaign between Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Republican Tim Michels?

Democrat Sara Rodriguez and Republican Roger Roth are the candidates for lieutenant governor who won primaries two weeks ago, so they will be listed on Nov. 8 ballots as the running mates of Evers and Michels.

The job of a lieutenant governor is being ready to step in if something happened to the governor, and to do as much — or as little — public policy as the governor wants. Lieutenant governors are expected to be loyal and not too ambitiously waiting for their turn to run for governor.

In the Democrats’ corner, attempting to leap in just two years from first-term Assembly member to lieutenant governor, is Rodriguez, 47, of Brookfield. Two years ago, Rodriguez defeated former Republican Rep. Rob Hutton in the 13th Assembly District, which includes parts of Waukesha and Milwaukee counties, by 735 votes.

In a 2020 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel interview, Rodriguez said the COVID-19 pandemic and her medical background — degrees in neuroscience and nursing and public health experience with the Centers for Disease Control and in Baltimore and Colorado — prompted her to run for the Legislature.

“When the Republican-led Legislature made people choose between their health and right to vote in the [April 2020] election, I just felt my background in health care and epidemiology would be helpful.” she said.

Her campaign website elaborated on her medical background:

“Sara has a lifetime of experience working in public health and health care. A registered nurse, Sara saved lives… She is a small business owner, served as a vice president at a Fortune 100 company, and worked as an executive with [Aurora Health}…

“Sara was one of only 70 individuals chosen annually to be an epidemic intelligence service officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where she led national and international outbreak investigations, and she worked to address chronic disease for [Colorado’s] health care agency.”

Her campaign website says Rodriguez’s husband “is originally from Mexico,” which could appeal to the 7.5% of Wisconsin’s population that is Hispanic or Latino, many of whom live in metro Milwaukee. The couple have two children.

The first-term Rodriguez was a “massive help to our caucus, both in developing policy and individual/local situations,” one Assembly Democratic leader said last week.

Rodriguez and Evers share a science-based approach to problem solving; Evers started his career as a science teacher.

In the Republicans’ corner, State Sen. Roger Roth is the running mate of Michels, a newcomer — although Michels prefers the term “outsider” — to Capitol politics. The 44-year-old Roth lives in Appleton with his wife and five sons.

If Michels is elected, Roth would advise the new governor on working with the Legislature. Roth served four years in the Assembly, leaving office in January 2010, and was elected to the Senate in 2014 and was Senate president from 2017 until January 2020.

Roth’s Senate website described him as a “self-employed home builder.” His campaign website added:

“Born and raised in the Fox Valley, Roger has learned the values of hard work and personal sacrifice. Roger became active in his family’s Appleton-based construction business as a teenager and would later manage all aspects of its operations.

“Following graduation from UW-Oshkosh, Roger joined the Wisconsin Air National Guard, with multiple deployments to the Middle East…He continues to serve as an officer in the Wisconsin Air National Guard, holding the rank of captain.”

Roth has advocated eliminating the personal income tax, saying that would “save Wisconsin families thousands, help retirees remain in Wisconsin and allow businesses and entrepreneurs to reinvest those savings in their workers and the state’s economy.”

The personal income tax is expected to bring in $9.6 billion this year, almost half of all general-fund revenues for the state. Michels has not yet said whether he agrees with Roth.

The undercard on Nov. 8 offers two very different contestants: A Democratic nurse and health-care specialist versus a Republican home builder, legislator and National Guard captain.

Steven Walters started covering the Capitol in 1988. Contact him at

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One thought on “The State of Politics: Roth, Rodriguez Battle For Lt. Governor”

  1. Robert Roth is an election-denier and refused to condemn the attack on our democracy on 1/6/2020. He is unfit for office of any kind.

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