4 Democrats face off in 2nd Congressional District primary

20 percent turnout predicted for Wisconsin primary
Vote sign
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Twenty percent of Wisconsin’s voting-age population is predicted to turn out for the Aug. 14 fall primary.

The state’s Government Accountability Board released its prediction for the primary Tuesday, three weeks before the election. That equates to about 870,500 voters. The highest turnout in a non-gubernatorial fall primary in the past 20 years was 21 percent in 1992.

One of the most competitive races is for the 2nd Congressional District, with candidates looking to replace outgoing Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin.

A 14-year veteran of the state Legislature, Rep. Mark Pocan rolled out new lawmaker endorsements Tuesday and said his experience puts him in the front of the pack of four Democrats running for Congress.

“I have a long record of fighting for progressive causes, and I think that combined with my life experience of owning a small business for over half my lifetime, I can really talk as both a progressive and a small business owner,” Pocan said.

But Rep. Kelda Helen Roys, a fellow Assembly Democrat, is drawing doubts about Pocan’s record in new ads, taking an aggressive approach saying Pocan has voted too often with Republicans and has taken money from Washington lobbyists. She says she will stand up stronger for her progressive principles, as she has done in the state Legislature.

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“Whoever wins this primary is going to have a long opportunity to serve us in Congress, and we are best served as a democracy by having a robust debate,” Roys said. “There is nothing more in-bounds to discuss than the votes we’ve taken as elected officials. We need someone in this congressional seat who is not going to cave in just because it might be politically tough to take a vote but will do the right thing every single time.”

Two new faces to politics are also running in the Democratic primary. Army veteran and lawyer Matt Silverman calls himself a social liberal and a fiscal moderate.

“I wanted to see a new type of leader in Washington,” said Silverman. “Political parties have leadership, and that’s great if you want to work for the party. But Congress needs leadership that is folks that want to work for the people, and I think that’s a real difference.”

Dennis Hall has a similar stance. The Vietnam vet worked at General Motors in Janesville, was president of the Janesville City Council and now owns a cyber security consulting business. He said he is a centrist with experience.

“The biggest thing is I’m not a career politician, and I have a day job,” Hall said. “People can really relate to that. People are tired of the status quo, tired of the continuing gridlock that is going on and that’s caused by people who are career politicians.

All four Democrats will face off for the primary seat and the winner will face the lone Republican running, Chad Lee of Mount Horeb.

WISC-TV confirmed late Tuesday that Rep. Fred Clark, who had endorsed Roys for Congress, is withdrawing his endorsement following the release of her new ad, calling it “inappropriate.” He said he will now stay neutral in the race.

The Aug. 14 primary also includes a four-way Republican race for the U.S. Senate.

This is the first year that Wisconsin’s fall primary comes in August. It used to be a month later in September. In addition to the U.S. Senate race, there are primaries in two of eight congressional districts, five of 16 state Senate districts and 39 of 99 Assembly districts. 

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