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Racine man hopes to run against Ryan

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
July 12, 2010
— The Democrats are mounting a last-ditch effort to come up with a challenger for Republican Congressman Paul Ryan this fall.

John Heckenlively of Racine said he decided Friday to run against Ryan. Heckenlively is a longtime party activist and secretary of the 1st District Democratic Party.


Heckenlively announced his intention to run at a meeting of party leaders Saturday. He said it will be hard to gather the required 1,000 signatures by Tuesday’s filing deadline, but he thinks it’s possible.


Paulette Garin of Kenosha, meanwhile, said Sunday she won’t run.


Garin was considering a run against Ryan and has been critical of 1st District party leaders, who she said spent a lot of time looking for a candidate with money while giving her the cold shoulder.


Garin said in a news release Sunday that she wishes Heckenlively the “best of luck,” but she continued her criticisms of district party leaders.


“The good news is they finally appear motivated to take measurable action,” Garin’s news release reads. “Still, it is impossible for me to perceive most of the leadership in a serious manner. Therefore, I am sitting this one out so that the focus of the next few months is on defeating Paul Ryan and not the dysfunctionality of the Democratic Party.”


Mark Pienkos, chairman of the 1st District Democrats, said the party does not back any candidate until after the primary or until it’s clear there is only one Democrat running. He said he hopes to have a meeting or some other process to decide the party’s official position on this race.


Pienkos rejected Garin’s suggestion that the leadership was backing Heckenlively, in violation of its own rule.


Heckenlively, 46, has not held public office before. He said he ran unsuccessfully for county board and register of deeds in Racine County.


Heckenlively said he has been thinking about running for several years, and in the absence of any other candidate, he decided Friday that this would be a good time to jump in.


Heckenlively said he was a journalist for 10 years before going back to school to get a teaching license. He had been looking for a teaching job for about a year, he said.


Heckenlively said he earned a master’s degree in history as well as his teaching certification from UW-Milwaukee.


“I think it’s possible to run a competitive campaign, and certainly I think it’s very possible to do better than the Democrats have done in the last 10 years,” Heckenlively said.


The best anyone has done against Ryan recently was the 37 percent that the late Jeff Thomas of Janesville polled in 2006.


Also running are Kenoshan Joe Kexel, on the Libertarian ticket, and Bill Tucker, an independent from New Berlin.


The 1st District includes most of Walworth County, the eastern half of Rock County, Racine and Kenosha counties and small parts of Waukesha and Milwaukee counties.



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