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Congressional candidates challenge incumbents, conventional wisdom

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
July 14, 2010
— The road to re-election for U.S. Reps. Paul Ryan and Tammy Baldwin seems to be named Easy Street.

At least, that’s the conventional wisdom.


Ryan, a Republican from Janesville, faces a challenge from John Heckenlively, a longtime Democratic Party activist from Racine, in the 1st District.


Heckenlively decided just days ago to run, and in fewer than four days, he may have succeeded in rounding up the necessary 1,000 signatures.


Heckenlively said Tuesday that the Government Accountability Board raised minor issues on several nomination forms, such as the date not including “2010.”


If the challenged sheets are accepted after the circulators clear up the errors, then he should have enough, but “it’s going to be real close,” Heckenlively said.


Heckenlively faces a six-term, well-funded congressman who has always won by comfortable margins.


Ryan, 40, also shows up regularly on national news shows, proposing alternatives to President Obama’s initiatives on health care and fiscal matters. No longer just a rising star, Ryan seems firmly established in the Republican firmament.


Some observers wonder, however, whether Ryan could find himself in a horse race in a heavily blue-collar district hard hit by the economic downturn.


Heckenlively, of Racine, has never held public office, but neither had Ryan when he was first elected in 1998.


Heckenlively, 46, said he was certified as a schoolteacher a year ago and has been looking for a job ever since. He is secretary of the 1st District Democratic Party.


Heckenlively will seek to distinguish himself on jobs and other economic issues. He supports the Obama health care legislation but says “there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done at making health care affordable and universal.”


Heckenlively said he’s a big backer of “clean energy” to help both the environment and for job creation.


“I think Wisconsin could be major leader in clean energy,” he said.


Also running against Ryan are an independent, Bill Tucker of New Berlin, and Libertarian Joseph Kexel of Kenosha.


2nd Congressional District

A primary Sept. 14 will decide which Republican will challenge Democrat Baldwin in the 2nd: Chad Lee of Mount Horeb or Peter Theron of Madison.


Theron garnered about 31 percent of the vote when he challenged Baldwin two years ago.


Theron says has taught statistics, mathematics and computer science at UW-Madison, UW-Whitewater and Beloit College. He also has created commercial software for the educational and entertainment markets.


Lee, 27, and his brother run Better Butler, a cleaning company. He also says he is a keyboardist in a rock band.


Baldwin, like Ryan, dominates the field with a substantial war chest and the other advantages of incumbency.


Libertarian Tim Nerenz dropped out in April because he moved from the district.



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