The first high-profile Democrat has launched their campaign for next year's highly competitive 3rd Congressional District election.
State Sen. Brad Pfaff, D-Onalaska, announced Monday he will run to replace outgoing Democratic Congressman Ron Kind.
Kind announced earlier this summer he would not seek reelection after more than 25 years in office. The 3rd Congressional District is seen as Wisconsin’s most politically competitive district. Kind narrowly won reelection there in 2020, while former President Donald Trump won the district over President Joe Biden by about 18,000 votes. Trump also won the district in 2016, but former President Barack Obama carried it by nearly 11 points in 2012.
Pfaff said, if elected, he would rise above partisan conflict in Washington and act on his "western Wisconsin values."
"I strongly believe in giving people the tools they need in order to succeed, and you do that by putting aside the party labels, recognizing that at the end of the day we’re neighbors," he said. "We need to have someone who knows the community — I know this district."
Pfaff was elected to the state Senate in 2020. He said his short time in the state Capitol, along with prior political experience, has proven he has what it takes to represent the district in Congress.
"I’ve worked hard in order to try and make sure the people of western Wisconsin, the small businesses and our family farmers, they know they’ve got someone who’s fighting for them," he said. "I will take that same background and same experience to Washington."
Before his time in the Senate, Pfaff served as the secretary of the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection under Gov. Tony Evers. In an unusual move, the Republican-controlled state Senate fired Pfaff from that role in 2019. Prior to that, he worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the Obama administration and as chief of staff in Kind’s office.
In his campaign announcement, Pfaff touted his work on behalf of Wisconsin farmers and outlined his commitment to supporting small businesses, middle-class tax cuts, education funding and work to "defend a free and fair democracy."
Navy veteran Brett Knudsen previously announced his candidacy in the Democratic primary.
Republican Derrick Van Orden, a retired Navy SEAL, announced his campaign to represent the district in April. Van Orden, who was endorsed by Trump, narrowly lost to Kind in 2020. This summer, Van Orden denied reports that he entered a restricted area of the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection.
The primary election for the seat will be held in August.
Editor's note: This story was updated to reflect Pfaff is the first high-profile Democratic candidate in the race and that Brett Knudsen launched a Democratic campaign for the seat prior to Pfaff.