All eyes turn to western Wisconsin for midterm election

MADISON, Wis. — One year ago Wednesday, longtime western Wisconsin Democrat Ron Kind announced his career in politics was over. Flash forward to one day ago, when Republican Tim Michels secured his gubernatorial nomination.

Michels’ campaign is providing a spark for the GOP, thanks in part to a vast amount of votes coming from Kind’s soon-to-be former 3rd Congressional District.

UW-La Crosse political science professor Anthony Chergosky said without Ron Kind on the ballot, it will be difficult but not impossible for Democratic nominee Brad Pfaff to attract moderate Republicans.

“This is such a closely divided district that a little shift here or there could make a real difference,” Chergosky said.

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Chergosky noted that it all comes down to campaign strategy. With former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, Derrick Van Orden is in a position to appeal to voters that already make up the majority of the district. Chergosky said Pfaff needs to distinguish himself as a candidate that doesn’t fall into the “progressive” Democratic category.

“If this is just purely, are voters going to vote Democrat or Republican, then Derrick Van Orden is going to win,” Chergosky said. “And he’ll win by a small margin, but he’ll win. If this is more complicated than that, if this becomes more about the candidates, then you might see Derrick Van Orden’s margin expand, or you might see it shrink in the favor of Brad Pfaff.”

It’s expected to be a tight election that, with just a few votes in Van Orden’s favor, could give Republicans the House majority.

“It’s going to be a fantastic, fantastic case study in just how much Democrats can stop the bleeding in rural areas,” Chergosky said.