Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District front and center of upcoming partisan primary

Wisconsin's 3rd Congressional District no longer a slam dunk for democrats one local expert says

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Wisconsin’s partisan primary is one week from Tuesday.  Voters who requested absentee ballots need to make sure they return them as soon as possible.  Partisan primaries typically don’t garner a lot of attention.

“Typically you don’t get much interest in primaries,” said La Crosse political expert Joe Heim. “A turnout of 10 to 15 percent, pretty normal.”

However, next Tuesday’s primary is important for those candidates printed on the ballot.

“A lot of it has to do with money so that you can start to focus on the elections in November,” Heim said.

Monday, the Wisconsin Elections Commission reported more than 331,000 absentee ballots were returned for next week’s primary. That number soared above the more than 108,000 absentee ballots returned in 2018, and the more than 76,000 ballots in 2016.

“There’s an indication that people are interested in what’s going on,” Heim said.

Chair of the La Crosse County Democratic Party, Michael Smuksta, said this is a chance for voters to decide who they want representing their party.

“It gives people a choice, particularly when there’s more than one candidate, which is good for democracy,” Smuksta said.

Heim said the 3rd Congressional District race is the headline act. Incumbent Rep. Ron Kind has represented the 3rd district since 1997. Dr. Mark Neumann is challenging Kind as a progressive democrat.

“He supports, I think, single-payer health care, (he) supports medicare for all,” Heim said. “And Ron Kind, although he supports Obamacare, doesn’t believe in necessarily your government taking over healthcare.”

Heim said another interesting note comes from the 2016 general election.

“If you add up all the votes in the third congressional district, Donald Trump carried the district,” Heim said.

More people voted for a republican president the same year Kind had no republican to challenge him.

“The district obviously showed republicans that this is winnable for a republican,” Heim said.

Jessi Ebben and Derrick Van Orden are running for the 3rd Congressional District seat on the GOP side. They share a lot in common.

“(They’re) pro-life, they both support Donald Trump,” Heim said.

Ebben on the other hand, Heim said has something that’s haunting her chance to earn support from republicans.

Jessi signed a recall petition against Gov. Walker, and that has turned into an ad,” he said.

This primary helps narrow down the pool of candidates.

“Whoever comes out of that primary has been tested a bit,” Smuksta said. “That prepares them I think better for the general election.”

The fall season arrives after the election, and the campaign season will only intensify.

“The fall basically means. ‘Start your engines. Start campaigning,'” Heim said.

La Crosse County Republican Party Chair Bill Feehan said Republicans have the chance to achieve a veto-proof majority in Madison. Republicans would need to gain three seats in both the Assembly and the Senate. Feehan said La Crosse and its neighboring communities will be a major focus of the Trump campaign this fall.

There are more races other than the 3rd district. Many are running unopposed.  Voters can view their ballots by visiting myvote.wi.gov.