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Four candidates make their cases for 2nd District

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GINA R. HEINE
August 8, 2012

— Whoever wins the Democratic primary next week for the 2nd Congressional District likely will serve many terms in Congress, at least one of the candidates says.

Two state Assembly representatives and two candidates touting their lack of political experience seek the Congressional seat in one of the nation's most Democratic districts.

Voters on Aug. 14 will choose between Dennis Hall, Matt Silverman and Reps. Mark Pocan and Kelda Helen Roys. The winner will face Republican Chad Lee in November. Incumbent Tammy Baldwin is running for U.S. Senate.

Pocan said his 14 years of experience as a state legislator set him apart. Six of those years were spent on the joint finance committee writing the state budget. Having the experience of passing a number of bills, he would hit the ground running in Congress, he said.

He's also been a small-business owner for more than half his life. As a progressive Democrat, he said, he knows what it means to meet payroll and run a business in a good or bad economy.

Roys said the district needs someone who will be a champion for progressive values.

"I bring judgment and integrity and the right priorities," she said. "I'm willing to stand up and fight for the issues that matter the most for middle class families, even if it's hard."

Roys has served four years in the Legislature, the last two as caucus chair.

Hall said he has the broadest and deepest experience of any of the candidates. From working at GM to meeting with heads of states, ambassadors and foreign ministers to advocate for Wisconsin, "nobody has that depth of experience," he said.

Hall served as director of the Wisconsin Alliance of Cities and has worked as an international consultant. From serving as Janesville City Council president to working with both sides of the aisle in the state Senate and Assembly, he said he's worked to get things done in the best interest of residents.

"All of those take negotiating skills at the local, state, national and international level," he said.

Silverman, an Iraq war veteran, said the biggest thing that sets him apart from his opponents is that he thinks for himself. Using the principles of the Democratic Party, he said, he comes up with workable solutions through comprise. His opponents, he said, talk about finding common ground with Republicans, but there's not enough common ground to reduce the deficit and get Americans back to work, he said.

"I believe in real comprise," he said. "To me, that means giving up something you want to get something you need."

The candidates answered these questions:

Q: None of the candidates lives in Rock County. What issues do you see as important here? How would represent the needs of Rock County?

Hall: Hall touted his "real-life experiences" in Rock County, where he worked on the line at General Motors in Janesville and served on the Janesville City Council from 1976-80.

He said he hears from his daughter and son-in-law, who farm in Minnesota, about the trials of farming.

"I understand and get an earful all the time of what their issues are and what concerns them," he said.

He said he would work with the 1st Congressional representative to help in any way he could to get the GM plant operational again.

Pocan: His campaign opened an office in Beloit, which already shows the attention he's trying to give the area, he said. If elected, he plans to keep an office in Beloit.

"It's important to have that proximity to constituents," he said.

He touted support from Sen. Tim Cullen and Sheriff Bob Spoden. He said he's been in Rock County meeting with people, from elected officials and labor leaders to small-business owners.

He said he's cognizant of the need to address the loss of jobs from the auto industry. He said he voted for the development opportunity zone for Beloit, while Roys voted against it.

Roys: From the start of her campaign, Roys said, she's worked hard to spend time and build support in Rock County, noting her supporters include former state Sen. Judy Robson and members of the Beloit City Council and Rock County Board.

The most important issue in Rock County as in most of the nation is family-supporting jobs, she said. She referred to her "very detailed plan" on her website on putting Americans back to work.

"Part of it is investment into infrastructure" and "reforming tax codes so middle class and working families aren't shouldering all the burden of funding our public investments," she said.

Silverman: He said he's spent more time in Rock County than any of his opponents because he spent a month walking 540 miles through the district. He talked to residents in Evansville, Edgerton, Orfordville and ended the walk in Beloit, he said.

"The folks in Rock County are no different than everyone in the district," he said.

The two big concerns he heard were about the loss of manufacturing jobs and increasing crime, he said.

Q: If the House remains in Republican control, how can you make a difference?

Hall: He said he would work with both sides of the aisle, starting with the freshman class.

"Cultivate that class," he said, to find an issue they can work on together.

He supports President Obama's creation of a bipartisan commission to reduce the country's deficit by looking at revenue enhancers and spending cuts, he said. It will take a combination, and he embraced that idea, he said.

"It's the proverbial water cooler, where we can go to talk about what we have in common and get the deficit under control," he said.

His opponents only want to kick the can down the road, he said.

Pocan: "A lot of it is being able to reach across the aisle and work with other people" whether they're in the majority or minority, he said.

He's learned how the pendulum of control swings during his 14 years in the Assembly. The bottom line is getting something done, he said.

"You have to be able to work with everybody and look as it as an opportunity to meet more people, (and) reach out to find out what we have in common rather that what differences we have," he said. "Those are things I'd do as a freshman in Congress."

Roys: Throughout her career, she said, she's been effective at working across party lines and building support for "real progressive change."

"It's bringing people on board to support what the right thing is—helping middle-class families," she said. "You don't have to comprise your principles to collaborate with people who bring different ideas."

She cited her work to secure Republican support to pass a bill to provide compassionate care for rape victims and her actions to take on big chemical companies to protect babies and young children from the chemical BPA.

Silverman: He said he would make a difference just by being elected because he's never run for office, is not involved in the partisan system and doesn't play "the money game."

Electing him to represent the liberal-leaning district would send a message to both parties that Americans are sick and tired of political division and a Congress that does not do its job, he said.

Tea party representatives are not going to be replaced by Democrats anytime soon, he said. If he showed those districts there are ways to elect a moderate—"someone I can work with"—then they can craft legislation to benefit all Americans, he said.

BIOS

Dennis Hall

Age: 63

Address: Cambridge

Job: Cyber and electronic security consultant, served four years in the U.S. Air Force.

Education: Studied political science at Milton College

Community service: Board member of Gilda's Club Madison, volunteer for Boys and Girls Club, Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund, served on board for Alzheimer's in Dane County.

Elected posts: Janesville City Council, 1976-80, served as president in 1980.

Website: hall4congress.com

***

Mark Pocan

Age: 47

Address: Madison

Job: State legislator, owner of Budget Signs & Specialties, Madison.

Education: Journalism degree from UW-Madison

Community service: Ranges from everything from the Madison Development Corp. Board and Big Brother with Big Brothers Big Sisters to the Columbia Support Network.

Elected posts: Elected to 78th Assembly District, 1998-present; Dane County Board member, 1991-96.

Website: pocanforcongress.com

***

Kelda Helen Roys

Age: 33

Address: Madison

Job: State legislator, previously was the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin.

Education: UW-Madison Law School graduate

Community service: Worked on a legal services committee to increase access to low-income individuals, Madison Repertory Theater board, member of Tempo Madison and has served on a number of nonprofit boards.

Elected posts: Elected to the 81st Assembly in 2008-present

Website: keldaforcongress.com

***

Matt Silverman

Age: 30

Address: Madison

Job: Lawyer and a captain in the Army Reserve, served on active duty 2004-08.

Education: UW-Madison Law School graduate

Elected posts: None

Website: silvermanforcongress.com



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