'Here & Now' Highlights: Anthony Chergosky, Charlie Sykes, Greg Hoffman, Dr. Beth Neary

Here's what guests on the Jan. 26, 2024 episode said about legislative district maps, the 2024 Republican presidential primary race, the closure of hospitals and clinics in west-central Wisconsin, and blood lead level testing in young children.

By Frederica Freyberg | Here & Now

January 29, 2024

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Frederica Freyberg sits at a desk on the Here & Now set and faces a video monitor showing an image of Anthony Chergosky.

Frederica Freyberg and Anthony Chergosky (Credit: PBS Wisconsin)

The Wisconsin Legislature passed new voting maps to make what one Republican leader called “miniscule changes” to the maps drawn by Gov. Tony Evers — UW-La Crosse political science professor Anthony Chergosky discussed the implications. Well-known “never-Trumper” conservative and former talk radio host Charlie Sykes reacted to Donald Trump’s clear runway to the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Chippewa Falls will lose a hospital and medical clinic as part of the closure of multiple facilities across west-central Wisconsin, and its Mayor Greg Hoffman described the health and economic craters that will result. Dr. Beth Neary, a retired pediatrician, explained why early testing for blood lead levels is so critical.

Anthony Chergosky
Professor, UW-La Crosse Department of Political Science and Public Administration

  • Legislative Republicans passed new redistricting maps that mirror those submitted to the Wisconsin Supreme Court by Gov. Tony Evers — with changes to protect incumbents. Under the Evers map, Republicans would be set to have a 53 to 46 majority in the Assembly and a 17 to 16 edge in the Senate. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said 30 Republicans would be paired against one another compared with just two Democrats under those maps. The new Republican maps would make changes for five incumbents, and Vos said the governor should approve them. Even though Vos characterized these maps as having “miniscule changes,” Chergosky rejected that assertion.
  • Chergosky: “I think it’s pretty significant changes when the maps are being adjusted to protect incumbents. Part of this is about self-preservation. If two incumbents are running against one another, then only one incumbent can win. And that means that a substantial number of incumbents could be left out of a job after the 2024 election cycle is completed. So I think the ability to remain in office is certainly top of mind for legislators. In addition, the incumbency advantage still matters. The incumbency advantage is not what it used to be. But still, incumbents do have certain advantages in terms of fundraising, in terms of name recognition, in terms of the connections and the credibility they’ve built with voters. So the more incumbents are on the ballot for Republicans, the better the party as a whole could do. I’m not surprised that Republican leaders want to protect their incumbents and ensure that as many of their incumbents as possible can be on the November ballot.”


Charlie Sykes
Founder, The Bulwark

  • The powerful former conservative Milwaukee radio show host Charlie Sykes, credited with fanning the 2010s red wave in Wisconsin, is today a staunch “never-Trumper” Republican. Following the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, Sykes described Republicansnow as “Donald Trump’s party,” with so many of its elected officials coalescing around him expecting a coronation at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee. Sykes said what Wisconsin voters will do in the general election remains a question mark.
  • Sykes: “In Wisconsin, everything is on a knife’s edge. I mean, these elections have been decided by 20,000 votes. And Donald Trump lost in 2020, largely because he didn’t do as well as he needed to do in the suburbs. You had a massive Democratic turnout, but you also had a number of Republicans, quite a few Republicans, who voted for Republican candidates for the state Legislature and for Congress, but did not vote for Donald Trump. Now, I don’t know whether they voted for Joe Biden, but there was clearly an undervote. I think there’s two big questions about Wisconsin. Number one: Will Democrats be able to once again be able to have the enthusiasm to have a massive turnout, particularly in Dane County? And number two: Is Donald Trump going to continue to underperform in the WOW counties? Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington county, and I suspect that he probably will. But again, every election in Wisconsin is close and this one probably will be as well.”


Mayor Greg Hoffman
Mayor, City of Chippewa Falls

  • Medical clinics in ten communities and two hospitals in Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls have announced they will close, resulting in the loss of more than 1,400 doctors and other staff positions around west-central Wisconsin. The health care providers said the decision to close was the result of financial stress from multiple factors, including lingering impacts of the pandemic, inflation and worker shortages. In Chippewa Falls, one of the clinics and HSHS Saint Joseph’s Hospital will close, leaving that city’s mayor, Greg Hoffman, feeling the loss.
  • Hoffman: “The question is, what do we do? Chippewa Falls is blessed with an extremely large, senior population. We have about 30% of our population over the age of 65. And of course, coming with that over 65 is health issues. That was what was nice about Sacred Heart Hospital and Saint Joe’s. So where do we go now? And then in addition to that, you got all the employees, you got all the economy. I mean, it’s just a ripple effect.”


Dr. Beth Neary
Co-president, Wisconsin Environmental Health Network

  • Wisconsin physicians have new recommendations to test all children for elevated levels of lead in their blood. The state Department of Health Services is calling for universal lead testing for all one- and two-year-olds and up to age five, if not previously tested. The number of Wisconsin children who were tested dropped 75% from April 2019 to April 2020, according to the agency. An instructor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Dr. Neary said early testing is critical and the new recommendations for universal testing are an important step. She described the effects of elevated blood lead levels.
  • Neary: “The lead is a toxicant. It affects every organ in the system. But it is awful for the human brain. If you think of children from the ages of 0 to 5, that brain is still developing. It’s creating these pathways, and it’s their future. So what happens is that it interrupts these circuits in the brain. The result is we see children who have lower IQ. It affects what we call executive function, and that means the ability to sit still in class, to regulate your emotions, to reason through things. When you think about a child who can’t do that and in kindergarten, maybe they can’t sit still and they can’t focus, they can’t learn. What we discovered is that if we had elevated blood levels in children, it affected their third grade reading and math scores, it affected high school graduation rates, and it’s linked to incarceration. So it’s awful for the child, but it has societal implications for all of us.”


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