MAUSTON—With election season in full force, the Juneau County Democratic Party made a significant push to rally voters last week.

The local party Sept. 20 opened what is believed to be the first Democratic Party headquarters in the county, located at 101 E. State Street in Mauston. Tuesday’s kickoff party featured Art Shrader, candidate for the 50th State Assembly District and Martha Laning, chair of the state’s Democratic Party.

Democratic voters from across Juneau County attended Tuesday’s rally. Judy Spring, from the county Democratic Party, opened the event asking where each attendee was from. The event featured many rural voters from the county.

Spring talked about how important the November election will be, not just nationally, but statewide and locally.

The party is heavily supporting Russ Feingold’s bid to retake his old U.S. Senate seat from incumbent Ron Johnson and Hillary Clinton’s bid for the White House.

She emphasized the vitality of Shrader’s attempt to unseat Republican incumbent Ed Brooks in the 50th District. The district covers all of Juneau County, along with Richland Center and Reedsburg. However, Brooks has served as a state representative since 2009 and defeating him won’t come easy.

“Juneau County is like the pivot point for so many things that are going on in elections, especially for the 50th Assembly District, where Art Shrader is running a very vigorous campaign and is very close, and with your help, we’re going to make it,” Spring said. “In Juneau County, each one of you here represents the power of Democratic voters and we need to replicate ourselves and get out so on Election Day we have a good turnout.”

Spring said the party is making a coordinated effort to win as many races as possible on Nov. 8. Spring believes Shrader has run a strong campaign and continues to build momentum.

Shrader, a community banker from Reedsburg, is running as a Democrat, but vows to not toe the party line if he makes it to Madison. Shrader believes Brooks has done that several times since taking office and it’s been a detriment to voters in Wisconsin.

The controversial Act 10 bill, signed by Gov. Scott Walker in 2011, is a major issue in Shrader’s campaign, along with cuts to public education and support for middle class families.

“I want to represent the people, not the party line. I will step across any line to represent the people of the 50th,” Shrader said. “My wife is a social worker, so we certainly have been impacted by Act 10, personally. The services that people rely on and really deserve are in jeopardy.”

Shrader thinks Brooks hasn’t represented the district’s best interests.

“If Ed Brooks wins in seven weeks you’re going to get the same exact thing you’ve gotten in the last eight years, and it’s not working for the district,” Shrader said. “If you honor me with your vote, and your support, I’ll tell you what you’ll get: someone who will listen to you, go to Madison, represent you and show up. When I come back here and you argue with me because of something I didn’t do, I’ll sit and listen to you and we’ll work it out.

“I need to get your help and let people know there is an alternative to the ‘do nothing’ we’ve had in office for the last eight years,” Shrader said. “If you can just give one hour a week to help get the word out, that would be amazing.”

Laning talked about the effects of school budget cuts, rising healthcare costs for seniors, and the need for money to fix the state’s ailing roads. The state’s Democratic Party chair also discussed the need for strong communities, a living wage, and the push to stop large corporations from receiving tax breaks.

“My parents taught me from an early age, education was the best way to get out of poverty – don’t let any door shut,” Laning said. “Scott Walker is closing doors all over the state of Wisconsin. He is taking away the opportunity for people to climb up. There is no hand out to this. If you work hard in school, you should be able to get into college and not be settled with so much debt that you can’t contribute to the economy.”

Laning also answered a few questions from the crowd on Tuesday. One of the voters asked if the party was grooming a challenger to Walker. While the governor is not up for reelection this year, Laning said the party is looking at some prospects, but wouldn’t divulge a name.

Laning was also asked how the party can draw more young people into election campaigns. Both Laning and Spring said progress is being made, citing Shrader’s campaign manager Robin Logsdon and field organizer Jason King as two young people striving to make a difference among Democrats in the state.

“If you work hard in school, you should be able to get into college and not be settled with so much debt that you can’t contribute to the economy.” Martha Laning, Wisconsin state Democratic party chair

Tomah Journal editor

Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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