About forty people gathered at Drinking Liberally Waukesha last night to have a beer with Rob Zerban (D) and hear him talk about his congressional race against Paul Ryan (R-very). For a Monday night in Waukesha County, that’s a good-sized crowd, especially considering that before this race, Rob Zerban was virtually unknown, having worked in the private sector for most of his adult life. Those who attended the event were full of enthusiasm and questions for Mr. Zerban.
As soon as Rob Zerban entered the bar the room broke into applause. He gratefully accepted a Wisconsin-made beer, “a classic Country Lager brewed with Weyermann’s floor malted Bohemian malt and Hallertau Mittelfrueh hops.”
Before he took his position in front of his audience, Zerban made himself available to everyone, and even had time to answer questions about his tax plan, should anyone ask.
After giving a brief stump speech, Rob Zerban relaxed, ditched the microphone, and took questions from the group in a discussion format. It was clear that just talking to people is where he’s at ease, and what he enjoys most. He sipped his beer and took questions on everything from education to the Walker recall to messaging and media.
When congratulated on his recent successful appearances on “The Ed Show” and “Up with Chris Hayes,” Zerban was humbled by the compliments, then jokingly stated, “I will consider having made it once I’m on Rachel (Maddow). I am still waiting for her to call.”
Asked about his thoughts on affordable education Zerban replied, “Most of you have probably heard my story about how I was raised poor and eventually went on to live my version of the American dream, but I could only have done that because our government invested in me and helped me get an education. And then I went on to start two small successful businesses where I employed 45 people and provided excellent wages and benefits….”
Zerban explained that he utilized government programs like Pell grants to pay for college. “You should not push the acceptance letter aside because you don’t have the ability to pay for that education, because everyone should have that opportunity,” said Zerban, at which point someone in the crowd quipped, “You could always borrow it from your parents,” generating loud laughs and knowing nods.
When asked about his chances of defeating Paul Ryan in CD 1, taking into account the result of the Walker recall election, Zerban said, “The politics of the recall were very unusual because there were a lot of Democrats who didn’t feel that it was a legitimate process to put him (Walker) through because he had been elected. So I think you’re going to see a very different result in Wisconsin this November than you saw in the recall…We have a much better shot of taking this seat back this time than ever before.”
Zerban was asked how to get young voters more involved in the democratic process. To address the question he talked about the pros and cons of modern technology in elections.
Change does not happen at lightening speed, he said. “Our government was never designed to work quickly. On average it takes at least 7 years to pass one piece of legislation, which is incredibly slow,” said Zerban. “Unless you’re Scott Walker,” said someone in the group to laughs, cheers and clapping.
Getting students enthused is “always a challenge,” said Zerban. “I wish I had that answer, I really do…Democracy is hard, it’s participatory, and in Wisconsin lately it’s a full-contact sport. But it’s important that people understand…that you have your own destiny in your hands.”
Rob Zerban must be doing something right, because as he told the group, “We’re going to be much closer than anybody thought possible.” That’s because, in part, his campaign just had “the most successful quarter to date in that we are just under having raised two million dollars for this race. What’s so significant about that figure is the amount of people who contributed to make it happen…Most congressional challengers are lucky if they get 5,000-7,000 donors, and this campaign has received 25,000. That’s amazing.”