“I think there are a lot of people who just don’t care which elected official is behind him,” said an operative who believes the race has narrowed substantially in recent weeks. “We see [Roys] really being out there, talking about [being] the hardcore progressive.”
Roys has portrayed herself as a progressive leader while at the same time questioning Pocan’s commitment to liberal causes and trying to tie him to the Washington, D.C., party establishment.
“When Kelda released her ads, she was really hitting the mark on him being a corporate guy and trying to out maneuver him on the left,” a Wisconsin Democratic strategist said.
Earlier this month, the Roys campaign issued a press release claiming that Pocan held a fundraiser in the office of a lobbyist for Koch Industries and that lobbyists for the Koch brothers’ company donated to Pocan’s campaign.
Roys offered a less explicit criticism of her opponent in an interview with Roll Call.
“Voters in this district are looking for someone who will stand up and do the right thing and not cave,” she said.
Democratic strategists said Roys’ strategy for distinguishing herself was to be expected but questioned its effectiveness against a candidate known for his progressive credentials.
“Mark has had a very long, very progressive record. He doesn’t take a back seat to anybody in terms of progressivism,” a local Democratic operative said. “I don’t know if people are going to take a look at [his] votes and question his progressive bona fides.”
The candidate who emerges from the primary will be heavily favored to become the next Member from the heavily Democratic 2nd district. That person is also expected to be a reliable vote for the liberal wing of the Democratic Caucus.
“The thing about Mark and Kelda [is that] they tack quite a bit in the same direction,” said the operative of the candidates’ policy positions. “Distinguishing between the two of them is difficult for folks.”