Flanked by hundreds of cheering supporters at an event at the UW-Parkside campus on Saturday, Rob Zerban, a former small business owner and 2012 challenger to Rep. Paul Ryan, announced that he will challenge Rep. Ryan in Wisconsin’s First Congressional District in 2014. In 2012, Zerban held Tea Party Republican Paul Ryan to his lowest share of the vote ever.
Here’s more from Zerban’s announcement press release.
“I have lived the American dream,” said Zerban. “But the American Dream is getting harder and harder to achieve. Under this incumbent Congressman, we have an economy that favors the very few, the wealthy and the well-connected.”
Zerban specifically criticized the incumbent for voting to shut down the government, to default on the nation’s debt, and refusing to support America paying the bills it had already incurred.
“These last few weeks have made it clear that not only do we need a different vision for America than the incumbent, we need a different set of personal values,” said Zerban.
The newly announced candidate focused his remarks at today’s announcement event on the goals he’d have as a US Representative, and the voting public’s desire for wholesale change in Congress.
“People in our neighborhoods don’t care first about being a Republican or Democrat,” said Zerban. “We don’t care about which Party is up and which Party is down. We care that our schools are strong, that we have access to quality, affordable health care that our communities are safe and our drinking water is clean and our air is breathable. We care that people get treated fairly, no matter who they love, and we care that women and men get treated the same. Most importantly – we want to know that there are jobs out there for our kids when they finish high school or college or technical school – and that if someone in our family loses their job, that they can find another one.”
In 2012, Zerban raised more than $2.3 million and held Ryan under 55% of the vote, which was the lowest vote share the incumbent had ever received, in the nation’s sixth most expensive House race. Ryan was forced to spend more than $4 million in his House campaign despite benefiting from hundreds of millions in campaign spending by the Romney campaign nationally.
Contrasting his own success in business with Ryan’s vision of the economy, Zerban said, “I think it’s our responsibility to give the next person who needs help a hand up so they can be successful. The incumbent, who started at the top of the ladder, would rather kick it away and make it impossible to climb.”
Zerban highlighted his community service in towns across southeastern and south central Wisconsin, and contrasted that repeatedly with Ryan’s votes on budget issues. He also pledged to support job creation and renewable energy initiatives, funding for public education, access to affordable health care, implementing comprehensive immigration reform, freedom for women to exercise their constitutional right to make their health care decisions, and the right of LGBT people to live free from discrimination, all areas in which he contrasted his position with Ryan’s record. Zerban repeatedly highlighted Ryan’s irresponsible votes during the recent budget crisis manufactured by the GOP.
“It’s just totally unbelievable that the incumbent in this district continues to vote to risk the full faith and credit of the United States,” said Zerban. “He continues to vote in favor of crashing the global economy. His commitment to partisanship and ideology is so extreme that he actually voted for the United States to default on our obligations.
“My friends, we need new leadership in the House,” continued Zerban. “We need leaders that work to avoid catastrophe – not invite it.”
According to a poll conducted by right-leaning Rasmussen Reports in March of this year, Americans viewed Paul Ryan unfavorably by a 54%-35% margin. In addition, a poll this month by Public Policy Polling indicated that only 48% of voters would support Paul Ryan’s re-election knowing he supported a government shutdown.
While there’s no denying Rob Zerban faces an uphill battle to unseat Rep. Paul Ryan, I think he’s learned some important lessons from his 2012 campaign, and I’ve long believed that any realistic challenge to Rep. Ryan was going to take more than one election cycle.