Democratic U.S. Rep. Ron Kind of La Crosse has a challenger for his House seat in the 2012 election.

Ray Boland, a former Wisconsin Veterans Affairs secretary and commander at Fort McCoy, announced Tuesday he would run for the Third Congressional District as a Republican.

The retired Army colonel cited “runaway spending, reckless borrowing, managerial dysfunction and political gridlock” as reasons for his run, his first foray into politics.

Boland, 74, said reducing waste would be his first step to balancing the federal budget, but entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare would have to be cut to eliminate deficit spending.

“This is not a scenario that can make everyone happy,” he said. “I do not see how else we can get out of this.”

Kind, 48, will seek his eighth term representing the district. Campaign director Armon Tabrizi provided a one-sentence statement on his behalf Tuesday: “Ron remains focused on his work on behalf of the people of western Wisconsin.”

Kind held off a challenge by then-state Sen. Dan Kapanke during a GOP sweep in 2010, winning with 50.3 percent of the vote in the narrowest victory of his Congressional career.

The district, which covers much of western Wisconsin, is expected to become more strongly Democratic if redistricting maps approved by the GOP-led Legislature are upheld by the courts. The new boundaries are expected to benefit first-term Republican U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, who represents northern Wisconsin.

Boland, a Vietnam veteran who retired in 1991 as garrison commander of Fort McCoy, was appointed secretary of Veterans Affairs by Gov. Tommy Thompson and served until 2003. 

A native of Friendship, Wis., he now lives in Sparta.

A La Crosse native and former prosecutor, Kind has been mentioned as a possible challenger to Gov. Scott Walker if recall efforts are successful. 

He said in October he had not ruled out the possibility of running.

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