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Democratic Congressional candidates in Western Wisconsin share platforms, ideas in forum ahead of August primary

Source: Jimmie Kaska | Civic Media

Democratic Congressional candidates in Western Wisconsin share platforms, ideas in forum ahead of August primary

The three Democratic candidates clarified their positions on important voter issues such as election integrity and abortion access while taking repeated shots at their Republican opponent.

June 13, 2024 5:00 AM CDT

By: Jimmie Kaska

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. (WLCX) – The third of four 3rd Congressional District Democratic Forums was held Wednesday on the University of Wisconsin-Platteville campus.

Democratic candidates Rebecca Cooke, Katrina Shankland and Eric Wilson discussed a number of topics ahead of the state’s primary on August 13.

A highlight of the forum was a question on election integrity. Each candidate said they would support measures to increase voting access for eligible voters.

Shankland said it’s important that the public trusts the election process and added that elections are secure.

“We have one of the most evolved forms of elections there is,” Shankland said. “Any clerk will tell you that it is incredibly safe and effective.”

She added that she supported a number of proposals in Congress that would protect voting rights.

Democratic Congressional candidate Katrina Shankland speaks at a forum on June 12, 2024 at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.
Democratic Congressional candidate Katrina Shankland speaks at a forum on June 12, 2024 at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.
Shankland says elections are secure and any clerk she’s worked with in her Assembly district could tell you how safe Wisconsin elections are.

Wilson said that he would work to end partisan gerrymandering, promote same-day voter registration, and increase accessibility for voting.

Cooke said she supported the bills in Congress this session that would protect voting rights.

“Protecting the rights and freedoms promised in our Constitution is more urgently needed now more than ever,” Cooke said, and added that she would support bills that protect voting rights. She also took a shot at Republican Congressman Van Orden for attending the January 6 insurrection. “We need someone who will uphold the pillars of our democracy and not work to dismantle it.”

Democratic Congressional candidate Rebecca Cooke speaks at a forum on June 12, 2024 at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.
Democratic Congressional candidate Rebecca Cooke speaks at a forum on June 12, 2024 at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.
Rebecca Cooke said that she supports the work in Congress being done to protect the rights of voters.

All three candidates took numerous shots at Van Orden, who the winner of the Democratic primary in August will face in the November election, during the forum, repeatedly referencing his public outbursts during his time in Congress.

Wilson called Van Orden “unhinged” and cited the time he yelled at a librarian in Prairie du Chien over LGBTQ books as a reason why he didn’t feel Van Orden was fit for Congress.

“Look, Derrick’s a bully, he’s a coward, and despite writing a book on manhood, knows nothing about it,” Wilson said, drawing applause from forum attendees. “He yells at people, he loses his temper… quite frankly, he’s unhinged.”

Democratic Congressional candidate Eric Wilson speaks at a forum on June 12, 2024 at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.
Democratic Congressional candidate Eric Wilson speaks at a forum on June 12, 2024 at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.
Eric Wilson said that Derrick Van Orden is “unhinged” and cited his public outbursts during his time in Congress.

On the topic of access to birth control and abortion, Wilson said that he was in favor of unrestricted abortion access in a short, to-the-point response. Cooke said that she didn’t feel that it was the role of politicians to dictate what happens between a person and their doctor.

“I don’t think that it’s my position as a government official to be in a doctor’s office making decisions for you and your family,” Cooke said. “The far right is not stopping just with abortion access; they’re coming for birth control, they’re coming for IVF, and so many other important things.”

Shankland cited her voting record on abortion and contraceptive access in the Assembly, and criticized Van Orden for his votes against reproductive freedom.

“I will work tirelessly to protect women’s reproductive freedoms and expand them,” Shankland said. “I have the experience to make sure that codifying Roe v. Wade will be a priority in Congress.”

All three candidates responded that they would work in Congress to codify Roe v. Wade.

Rebecca Cooke, Katrina Shankland, and Eric Wilson, Democratic candidates for the 3rd Congressional District seat in Wisconsin, speak at a forum at UW-Platteville on June 12, 2024.
Rebecca Cooke, Katrina Shankland, and Eric Wilson, Democratic candidates for the 3rd Congressional District seat in Wisconsin, speak at a forum at UW-Platteville on June 12, 2024.

Multiple questions were asked of the candidates about agricultural issues, from CAFOs to preserving farmland, and all three supported a wide range of ideas to help dairy farmers and opposed corporate takeovers of farmland across western Wisconsin.

The candidates also agreed that western Wisconsin needed more resources to help maintain environmental protections and renewable energy initiatives, as well as broadband internet access.

All candidates also supported funding public schools and increasing pay for teachers, with Cooke proposing an expansion of federal ESSER programs to help schools maintain staffing and programming. Shankland said that voucher programs for private schools needed to end and that federal programs needed to help support special education funding.

The 3rd Congressional District Democratic Party held a forum for candidates on June 12, 2024 at UW-Platteville.
The 3rd Congressional District Democratic Party held a forum for candidates on June 12, 2024 at UW-Platteville.

Where the candidates disagreed somewhat was on what they needed to do to get their proposals to law. Shankland said that her approach would be collaborative, since she would represent people from both parties as well as independents.

“Without discrimination, we need to bring everyone together to have these conversations,” Shankland said. “I believe in an all-of-government approach.”

Wilson, who stated multiple times during the forum that he was running on progressive ideas to represent young people, said tens of thousands of students will head to the polls this fall, and they will want to vote on the issues that matter to them.

“Dems will need young people,” Wilson said. “This is not the year to be a moderate.”

For Cooke, she believes that she can draw support from her district rather than needing another member of Congress to get a bill put together.

“To me, I am beholden as an elected official to the constituents that elect me,” Cooke said in response to a question about who she would reach out to across the aisle in order to pass a bill dealing with placing wind turbines or solar installations on farmland. “I don’t feel like I need to go find another member of Congress to introduce a bill like this.”

Each candidate stated their case for the Democratic nomination in their closing remarks. Cooke cited the experience of her first run helping to get out to more communities in the 3rd Congressional District in her second run. Shankland touted her legislative and election experience, as well as her ability to work on legislation that makes it into law.

One of the topics that didn’t make the forum question list was healthcare. Wilson said in his closing statement that he is the only candidate supporting Medicare for all, as well as responsible gun control, student loan forgiveness, and a ceasefire in Gaza.

All of the candidates said that regardless of who wins the August primary, that person needs to beat Van Orden in November.

The final forum for the three candidates will be held on July 16 at Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire at 6:30 p.m. The forum will once again be broadcast by Civic Media.

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