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Eau Claire business woman, Evers-appointee joins Democratic race for Wisconsin's 3rd Congressional District

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Another Democrat has entered the race for Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District.

Rebecca Cooke, Eau Claire small business owner, political consultant, nonprofit leader and current board member of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, officially announced her campaign on Wednesday morning, vying to become the district’s first congresswoman.

Rebecca Cooke

Eau Claire small business owner and candidate for Wisconsin's 3rd Congressional District, Rebecca Cooke.

“Growing up, it was a struggle to make ends meet like it is for so many Wisconsin farm families, but we always showed up for neighbors in need,” Cooke said in a statement.

“Those core values of serving others and building community have guided my life, from my own family’s kitchen table to the board room. That drive to bring people together is why I started a small business and founded a nonprofit focused on empowering entrepreneurs right here in western Wisconsin,” she said.

Cooke is an Eau Claire native where she was raised on a dairy farm and began working at an early age and was involved in 4-H and showing cattle and waited tables throughout high school.

She received a degree in marketing and public relations from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, during which her campaign said she was supported by Pell Grants, scholarships and other financial aid.

After school Cooke worked in financing on political campaigns across the U.S., including aiding in electing Democratic California Congressman Raul Ruiz in 2014, according to Bluegold Media in 2016.

She then returned to Eau Claire where in 2015 she launched a political finance consulting firm, Cooke Strategy, and opened her shop Red’s Mercantile, which sells home goods and accessories. From her business stemmed Red Letter Grant, a nonprofit Cooke started in 2016 that helps support female entrepreneurs.

Cooke also served as campaign manager for Eau Claire County Judge Sarah Harless in 2018, according to the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram.

In 2019, Cooke was appointed by Gov. Tony Evers to the board of the WEDC, where she currently serves as the secretary.

Cooke was described in her announcement Wednesday as understanding the “economic and social challenges facing the small towns and rural communities,” saying she has “fiercely advocated” for them throughout her career.

Her platform includes the cost of health care, workforce issues, education access and broadband and infrastructure issues, according to her announcement.

“We face big challenges as a country,” Cooke said in the statement. “Our rural communities are tired of Washington turning its back on us, and I’m ready to get to work because we need representation with the lived experience and drive to get results for our region.”

Cooke joins two other candidates in the race to become the Democratic candidate for Wisconsin’s 3rd, a closely watched battleground race in the upcoming 2022 midterms.

Wisconsin Sen. Brad Pfaff, D-Onalaska, announced he would take a shot at the seat last week, and Holmen native Brett Knudsen has also entered the left side of the race.

Derrick Van Orden, R-Prairie du Chien, is currently the only Republican in the race.

The seat was left wide-open after longtime Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, announced he would not seek another term after more than 20 years in office.

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