‘It would have made the entire difference’: Democrats wished for more funding in 3rd Congressional District race

MADISON, Wis. — Democrats outperformed expectations Tuesday as they lost by a narrower gap than forecasts suggested they would in the 3rd Congressional District in western Wisconsin.

Despite that overperformance, it was still a disappointing result for Democrats on the ground.

“I was heartbroken,” said William Garcia, chair of the La Crosse County Democrats. “I think we overperformed from a pundit prognostication, but I was expecting a win — I was expecting to pull it out and we came so so very close.”

Just a few weeks before the election, House Majority PAC — a national group that helps elect Democrats to the House of Representatives — pulled ad spending it had initially bought for the race. The move frustrated some Democrats in Wisconsin.

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“It would have made the entire difference,” Garcia said. “One of the things that Derrick Van Orden relied on was that he was a Republican, but his specific and very extreme views were not that well known.”

Garcia said he wanted more ad space to paint that narrative of Van Orden, and in a race that did not have a debate, political experts said that political ads would fill the void.

“If I could go back in time in both the Senate race and the House race and get more national investment in these races, I think it could have made a huge difference,” said Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Ben Wikler.

“That’s, I think, the big lesson going forward: never write off Wisconsin Democrats, even when the chips are down,” Wikler added.

Democrats in western Wisconsin, however, are not writing off the 3rd Congressional District. They say Van Orden has a target on his back now.

“He’s going to be vulnerable because he’s going to have a voting track record now,” Garcia said. “He’s going to have to go to Congress and he’s going to have to work and we’re going to be able to actually point to votes and say, ‘Look, this is not the person you thought you were voting for.'”