Race for Wisconsin Senate 32nd District a rematch from 2004 between Kapanke and Pfaff

Brad Pfaff announces Monday he's challenging Dan Kapanke for the 32nd Senate seat
Brad Pfaff

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – The race for Wisconsin’s 32nd District Senate seat features a rematch from 2004. Brad Pfaff announced his decision to challenge Republican Dan Kapanke for Jennifer Shilling’s seat this November.

“It really is about our future, all of our future,” Pfaff said in an interview with News 8 Now Monday morning.

The Onalaska resident’s experience runs deep in Wisconsin agriculture.

“I was raised on a family farm in northern La Crosse County,” Pfaff said.

The 32nd Senate District is a seat both he and Republican candidate Dan Kapanke battled for in 2004. Kapanke won that election by about 5 percent of the vote.

“I thought it was a great race and I look forward to 2020,” Kapanke said.

Kapanke said this seat is about the people who call this region home.

“The big deal is representing the people and the interests of the 32nd,” Kapanke said. “Taking their voice to Madison. I have a history of service having previously served in the 32nd. I am proud of that service record. I look forward to the opportunity of doing it again.”

Pfaff served as Wisconsin State Executive Director and the National Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In 2018, Gov. Tony Evers nominated Pfaff to lead the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection. Pfaff was critical of Republicans for not moving fast enough to release $200,000 in funding for farmer mental health services and suicide prevention efforts.

The Republican-controlled Senate rejected Pfaff’s cabinet appointment in November of last year. He then became the state’s first Director of Business and Rural Development in 2019.

“Sure I am disappointed with what happened,” Pfaff said. “I am more disappointed that our family farmers, our rural residents, and our small business owners had to be part of a political disagreement that was unnecessary.”

He said he wants to break the partisan divide in Madison.

“It’s about us and we can do better. We need to do better.”

Political expert Joe Heim said the election will affect how much more power republicans will have in the Senate.

“I believe in divided government,” Heim said. “I really think it’s important to have a balance between the governor and the legislature. It’s important for them to compromise.”

Kapanke lost his seat to Jennifer Shilling in 2011 after a recall election. The election was ignited due to controversy over Kapanke’s support for then-Gov. Scott Walker’s law stripping public workers of their union rights.

Sen. Jennifer Shilling endorsed Pfaff in a statement Monday afternoon. She said, “Brad has deep family roots here in western Wisconsin and folks know he’s not afraid to take on the political establishment and special interests.”

He understands the importance of quality health care, good schools, and safe roads. Amid the ongoing farm crisis, Brad has been a trusted and outspoken advocate for family farmers by urging action on mental health assistance, rural broadband access, and sustainable land management practices.”