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Ryan challenger touts fundraising

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
July 18, 2011

The Democratic challenger to Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is touting his first round of fundraising, but he admits he has little chance of equaling the seven-term Republican incumbent’s war chest.


Rob Zerban of Kenosha, the only Democrat known to be seeking Wisconsin’s 1st District seat, said he has raised $220,000. That’s more than any Ryan challenger has raised for a complete election cycle since Ryan took over the seat in 1998, Zerban said.


The election isn’t until November 2012.


Zerban reports about $205,000 cash on hand as the second quarter came to a close.


Ryan had more than $3.8 million on hand.


Zerban didn’t include in his announcement that $120,000 of his $220,000 was a loan from Zerban to his campaign.


Even so, Zerban has raised more money in the past quarter than any of Ryan’s challengers raised since Ryan won in 1998, said Graeme Zielinski, who is spokesman for the state Democratic Party and for Zerban’s campaign.


The $100,000 that came from contributors other than himself is the most that any Ryan challenger ever raised in any quarter, Zielinski said.


Zielinski said Zerban has made it clear that he would invest in his campaign.


“In politics, you have to spend a little money to make money, and he’s committed to doing that,” Zielinski said. “Luckily, he has the resources to do it because he’s a successful businessman.”


Ryan recently announced that he raised nearly $900,000 in the second quarter.


“If you’re advocating for big business and special interests, of course you’re able to raise a lot of money,” Zerban said.


Zerban said he never expected to raise as much as Ryan.


“We just need to get our message out,” Zerban said.


Zerban’s message is that Ryan’s ideas about changing Medicare and reducing the budget deficit are bad for the country.


“We’ll be able to hang onto that until Election Day and win this race,” Zerban said.


Zerban’s campaign also is getting the Democratic Party’s backing in ways that earlier Ryan challengers could only dream about.


Zerban said he is pleased with the support he is receiving from the state Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.


“They’ve been supporting me at every turn,” he said.


Zerban sought to portray Ryan as a D.C. insider who is out of touch with his district, something Ryan rejects.


“My number one priority is looking out for the best interests of everyone I was elected to serve in Wisconsin,” Ryan said in his news release. “Criticizing ideas without proposing alternatives won’t prevent a debt crisis that in the end will hurt everyone.”


Zerban is a Kenosha County Board member who says he worked his way up in the food-service industry, eventually founding companies that created jobs.


Zerban said the average contribution to his campaign is $42. Many contributors give $10 or $25, he said, although he acknowledged that some gave as much as $2,500.


Ryan’s campaign said 77 percent of the individual contributions since the beginning of 2011 year were $100 or less.



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