Two state legislators entered the race to replace Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) in Wisconsin’s 2nd district Wednesday — ensuring a Democratic primary that will pique the interests of political observers in Wisconsin and Washington, D.C.
The Democratic nomination in the Madison-based district is all but tantamount to winning the seat.
Baldwin, a liberal Congresswoman who announced her Senate candidacy on Tuesday, has won it by wide margins since the 2001 redistricting, as the surrounding parts of Dane County have trended Democratic.
There’s a good chance Baldwin’s successor will be state Rep. Mark Pocan or state Rep. Kelda Helen Roys, who announced their candidacies Wednesday.
Two outside Democratic groups, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and EMILY’s List, are assisting Baldwin in her groundbreaking campaign to become the nation’s first openly gay Senator.
However, in Baldwin’s House district, the two groups are expected to split their loyalties between Pocan, who is gay, and Roys, who has been supported by EMILY’s List in the past.
Neither group has officially endorsed a candidate yet, but Pocan said he is working closely with the Victory Fund, which has helped finance campaigns of gay and lesbian candidates at all levels of government. Similar to EMILY’s List, which backs women that support abortion rights, the Victory Fund can tap into a national network of donors.
Additionally, Pocan’s and Roys’ campaigns include two former senior staffers at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Former DSCC Executive Director J.B. Poersch, now a managing director at SKDKnickerbocker, is a media consultant for Pocan, while former DSCC Political Director Martha McKenna, a principal at McKenna Pihlaja, is working for Roys.
In an interview Wednesday, Roys, who is in her second term, said the next 2nd district seat-holder must stand firm on the liberal issues Baldwin championed during her seven terms in Congress. Roys cited her work in the Legislature to extend health care access to lower-income workers and her leadership on consumer protection issues.
“It’s one of the very few districts in the country where you can really elect someone who can articulate Democratic values and fight for them with pride,” Roys said.
She added: “We need, more than ever, really strong, progressive voices who are willing to be bold and govern boldly.”
Roys officially announced her campaign via a morning press release and intends to hold a series of announcement events throughout the south-central Wisconsin district. She has not made final decisions on her entire campaign team, unlike Pocan, who announced his campaign at a press conference in front of his Madison small business, Budget Signs & Specialties.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.