Democratic 3rd Congressional District candidates take debate stage at UW-La Crosse

Primary winner probably will face Republican Derrick Van Orden in the midterm elections

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — The Wisconsin 3rd Congressional District Primary isn’t until August, but the Democratic candidates debated issues Tuesday night at the UW-La Crosse.

Several candidates, including five Democrats, are vying to replace Rep. Ron Kind, who isn’t seeking re-election after holding the seat since 1997.

Events like this are meant to help voters decide which candidate they believe should serve in office.

The reason why students like the Chair of UWL Democrats Grace Florence are keeping a close eye on the 3rd Congressional race.

“I think I’m really looking for a new, fresh face,” Florence said.

Florence is undecided which Democrat she will vote for.

She wants someone who will put an emphasis on women’s rights and abortion.

“I think the right to choose needs to be represented in the House,” Florence said.

It’s just one of the many issues UWL political science professor and moderator Anthony Chergosky is posing questions to  candidates Rebecca Cooke, Mark Neumann, Deb McGrath, Brad Pfaff and Brett Knudsen.

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The five Democratic candidates for the 3rd Congressional District primary — Rebecca Cooke, Mark Neumann, Deb McGrath, Brad Pfaff, and Brett Knudsen — take the debate stage at UWL Tuesday night.

The winner of the Democratic primary probably will face Republican Derrick Van Orden in the midterm elections.

“This is the most competitive district in the state of Wisconsin,” Chergosky said.

It’s also one of the largest.

The district stretches from the Eau Claire area to the Illinois border, and goes as far east as the Stevens Point area.

In his final race in 2020, incumbent Kind defeated Van Orden by less than three percentage points.

Chergosky says the size and competitiveness of this district is why UWL hosted the debate four months ahead of the primary.

“We’re in unusual waters here,” Chergosky said, because the candidate who ends up winning will replace a career politician.

“Whoever becomes the next representative I think is going to be quite a shock to the system for people in this area,” Chergosky said.

“I think it’s really important in lieu of the polarized political climate to pick someone that is willing to work together,” Florence said.

Chergosky says it’s also important for voters to keep paying attention throughout the entire campaign because key issues are going to change between now and August.

The war in Ukraine, and the possible Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade could really shake things up, he said.

The primary is on Aug. 9, while the general election will take place on Nov. 8.

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