Pfaff ekes out razor-thin victory over Kapanke for 32nd Senate seat
LA CROSSE, Wis. — Republican former State Sen. Dan Kapanke and his Democratic opponent, Brad Pfaff, engaged in a rematch of sorts as they vied for the same 32nd District State Senate seat both sought in 2004.
Unlike the 2004 tilt, Pfaff emerged the victor with 48,853 votes Tuesday, which gave him a razor-thin margin over Kapanke’s 48,264.
Shortly after 100 percent of the votes were reported as counted around 3:15 a.m., Pfaff tweeted, in part, “I am eager to bring together families and communities so we can refocus on our shared values and overcome the challenges facing our state.”
Although Kapanke won in 2004, he lost the seat to Jennifer Shilling in the recall wave of 2011. Shilling, who rose to become Senate minority leader, resigned the post in May and became government relations manager for Dairyland Power in La Crosse in June.
Pfaff, of Onalaska, served two terms on the La Crosse County Board of Supervisors, was an aide to both retired U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl and, more recently, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind.
He was secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection for 10 months until a year ago, when the Republican-controlled state Legislature refused to confirm him.
When Pfaff announced his Senate candidacy, with Shilling’s endorsement, he told reporters that his DATCP experience was a motivating factor.
“I had traveled the state,” he told the Wisconsin Examiner. “I had listened. I had heard. I stood in dairy barns, I stood in milk plants, I was on Main Street and I was in diners, I was in feed mills. I listened to people: rural residents, family farmers, small business owners.”
Hearing about those folks’ emotional and financial stress propelled his desire to serve in the Senate, he said.
Kapanke, who owns the La Crosse Loggers baseball team, tried to reclaim the 32nd District seat in 2016, but Shilling turned back his bid.
Appearing with President Donald Trump at events, Kapanke billed himself, like Trump, as a law-and-order candidate. He also called for the Legislature to invest in western Wisconsin’s infrastructure.
He promised to be a common-sense voice in Madison, adding, “I’ll fight to make sure you keep more of what you earn and not allow the Madison machine keep a penny more than it needs.”