In the August primary, the Democratic voters of Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District will be faced with a choice many in the party are grappling with: moderate or progressive?
It’s a divide over party identity that has been underscored heavily in recent years, but especially in this round of 2020 elections, and Wisconsin’s southwest Congressional district is no exception.
Voters will see a familiar face on the Aug. 11 ballot, Rep. Ron Kind of La Crosse, who is wrapping up his 12th term and 23rd year in office, and who in this race, is more of a moderate candidate.
Opposing Kind is political newcomer and doctor, Mark Neumann, also of La Crosse, who has poised his campaign on progressive ideals, and like many other progressive newcomers across the nation, said Donald Trump’s presidency has invoked a desire to run.
A major difference between the two candidates are where they stand on health care: Neumann said he supports single-payer health care and the Medicare for All Act, but Kind, who voted in support of Obamacare, is skeptical about that policy.
Kind said he hopes voters will see him for his accomplishments in the past, while Neumann is dedicating his campaign to investing in the future, running on the slogan: Healthy people, healthy planet.
The last time Kind faced a Democratic opponent was in 2016, where he won the nomination with more than 80% of the vote, against a progressive candidate.
With more than two decades in office, some of Kind’s challengers have taken to calling him a career politician.
“Change just for the sake of change can lead to a worse place,” Kind said of the major turnovers in D.C., which he said are causing a partisan gridlock with “my way or no way attitudes.”
“I ask people to judge me on my record and my performance,” said Kind, who said that his greatest accomplishment is his ability to reach across the aisle.
For Neumann, it’s less about shaking up a long-held seat and more about offering a different perspective.
“I feel like, when we go to the polls, voters should have a choice. So I intend to offer that,” Neumann said. “I think there are distinctions between me and Mr. Kind that allow people to have a choice.”
Here’s where both candidates stand on the issues:
Kind: Has a long history of supporting farmers while in-office, including a recent USDA plan to help farms through COVID-19 which has been partially received. His broad plans include bettering market prices and mending trade disagreements.
“I don’t think there’s been a bigger champion in the U.S. Congress for the family farmers,” Kind said. “I’ve been a fighter for them, since day one.”
Neumann: Supports addressing unstable market prices, trade tensions and specifically protecting small family farms as a way to sustain rural life.
“Our secretary of Agriculture recently said get bigger or get out. And I believe that’s the exact opposite of what should be,” Neumann said, who is a member of the farmer’s union.
“I think our family farmers are being undermined,” Neumann said. “I believe that that is a huge issue for our region, is to make an aggressive protective plan for rural life.”
Flooding & climate change
Kind: Supports more money to update flood-control infrastructure such as dams and levies, and lending more funding to emergency responses and FEMA resources for rural communities.
“It is a problem,” Kind said of flooding in the district. “This isn’t going to go away. It’s a question of when, not if.”
Neumann: Climate change is one of several top issues for Neumann, tying into his “healthy people, healthy planet” slogan. To him, addressing chronic flooding in the area starts at addressing broader climate issues, while also supporting federal emergency responses.
“That’s just mitigation. That’s sort of after-the-fact, you know, the horse is out of the barn and we’re going to try to repair it as best as we can,” Neumann said.
Infrastructure and broadband
Kind: Supports linking rural Wisconsin to broadband access, and serves on the national broadband task force, which has a goal to end the “rural-digital divide” by 2025.
“It’s crucial,” Kind said, “people have to have access to the net.”
Neumann: Supports broadband access for rural communities, and said it could be part of a New Deal-esque package of policies to address current economic hardships.
“If we don’t make those kinds of investments as a community, then we undermine our future,” Neumann said.
Kind: Likes the idea of single-payer health care system, but doesn’t support it as-is in the Medicare for All Act because of concerns over funding. Does support giving federal government bargaining rights with pharmaceuticals.
Instead, Kind said he supports pricing models that allow people to pay for their quality of services, not the volume, a concept that was highlighted in the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which Kind voted for.
There’s “still work to do,” Kind said on health care.
Neumann: Supports a single-payer health care system and the Medicare for All Act lying in wait in the House, and tackling the pharmaceutical companies and health insurance moguls.
As a former practicing physician, the “cruel health care financing system” is at the top of Neumann’s to-do list if elected.
“Over the decade, people have asked me many times if I believed we would ever be able to solve this problem,” he said. “It is possible to do this. It’s not a pipe dream.”
Kind: Supports more flexible medical and family leave, and thinks addressing child care could help rebuild America’s workforce.
Neumann: Supports lengthy family leave, open to up to a year, he said, viewing child care as crucial for kids in their young, developing years.
Kind: Supports making college more accessible and affordable for students, and has sponsored bills restructuring student loans.
“It’s personal to me,” he said, a first-generation student himself who depended on financial aid. “I don’t want to pull the ladder out from the generation behind me and say, tough luck, you’re on your own.”
Neumann: Supports making higher education public.
“People who become educated are making a resource for our community,” he said. “Young people and their education will pay forward.”
Kind: Voted for the recent police reform bill in the House, but does not support defunding the police. Instead supports improving training and policing practices.
Neumann: Unsure about defunding the police, and instead supports dismantling the War on Drugs, which he views as the start of the militarization of the police.
Both candidates said they disapprove of the way the federal government has handled the pandemic, calling it a “disaster” and “embarrassing.”
Polls will be open from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. on Aug. 11 for the primary. All voters must vote within one party or else the votes will not be counted.
An absentee ballot can be requested at MyVote.Wi.Gov, though voters should allow enough time for mailing back and forth — all absentee ballots must be returned by the time polls close to be counted.
“I ask people to judge me on my record and my performance.” U.S. Rep. Ron Kind
"I ask people to judge me on my record and my performance."
U.S. Rep. Ron Kind
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