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Voters decide two primaries in 7th District

Voters set the ballot for the November election when they head to the polls Aug. 12 in Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District.

Kelly Westlund of Ashland and Michael Krsiean of St. Joseph, north of Hudson, are vying for a spot as the Democratic candidate, and Rep. Sean Duffy of Weston is facing a challenge from Don Raihala of Superior for the Republican spot on the ballot in November.

Voters decide their preference for one party or the other Aug. 12 in the state’s largest congressional district in area.

Democratic primary

Westlund, a graduate of Emerge Wisconsin, a program to help Democratic women become more engaged in the political process, said as part of that education she was encouraged to ask if she could make decisions better than the person representing her.

“I looked at the person representing me in Congress — the least effective Congress in the history of our country — and I asked if I would make better decisions and better represent my community, and the answer was yes.” That, she said, is the reason she decided to run for the office.

Krsiean, who owns an engineering and consulting business in addition to operating a 26-acre farm, said he decided to run for office because he doesn’t like the direction the federal government is going.

“The constitution is disregarded,” Krsiean said. “And the limits the constitution places on federal government are disregarded. I think that’s unwise government.”

While Krsiean is running as a Democrat, he said he is “not a party guy.” In fact, in 2010, he ran for the 3rd Congressional District seat as an independent, before redistricting in 2011 placed St. Croix County in the 7th Congressional District.

Westlund said her background in conflict resolution — her degree from Northland College in Ashland is in peace, conflict and global studies with a minor in sociology — is “sorely needed” in Congress.

“We have hyper partisanship and obstruction, but we don’t have people willing to work together to face the very big and real challenges facing our country,” Westlund said. “I think that’s got to change.”

She said an asset she brings to the role is a willingness to listen to people, something she hears often elected officials don’t do.

“I’m the kind of person who believes we make the best decisions when we have all the information,” Westlund said. “That means listening to everybody; everyone has something to contribute.”

As a former city councilor in Ashland, Westlund said she also has a good understanding of the impact of state and federal decisions on local communities. “It has real effects on my neighbors, and I’ve seen that first hand,” she said.

Krsiean said he brings a good understanding of the constitution to the office.

“The constitution is a document that both limits the size of government at the federal level and defines the federal government, and the federal government is no longer using the constitution as a prime consideration for how it conducts business,” Krsiean said. “The only thing federal government should be involved with are those things outlined in Article I, Section 8, the enumerated powers … they’re doing things they shouldn’t be.”

The theme of his campaign is “big is bad.” He said he is pro-gun, pro-life, and he’s in favor of the mine in the Penokee Hills. While touring the area, he said people he talked to were asking for jobs, not government handouts.

“Everyone has to contribute to society for the good of society,” Krsiean said. “… We need to get people out working, making contributions, being rewarded for personal fulfillment.”

In turn, he said, the federal government is also not doing things it should, such as protecting the nation’s borders.

“What they should be doing, they’re not, and what they are doing, they shouldn’t be,” Krsiean said.

He said by informing the public about various federal agencies, he plans to energize the grass roots to address the issues. Krsiean said the federal government has become too big, a power broker, that breeds corruption. And big corporations use that government to limit small business.

“We need to reduce that framework that they utilize to conduct unfair business practices,” Krsiean said. “ … It’s time for some ordinary, average people like me to get in there and start telling people how they’ve been lied to and manipulated.”

Westlund said if elected, she would like to “change the tone of Congress.”

“Patriotism is about putting your country and your community before yourself,” Westlund said. “That means if we’re facing challenges together, we have to change the conversation. If we’re fighting across the table that means we’re not on the same side attacking the problem across the table.”

Among the issues she would like to address is campaign finance reform.

“I believe citizen voices ought to speak louder than campaign contributions,” she said.

There are a lot of issues that need addressing, Krsiean said, but his goal is to get to the heart of the problem.

“When you fight a fire, you don’t go for the tips,” Krsiean said. “You go for the base. So we need to go and start attacking the base of the corruption.”

And that starts with agencies onto which Congress has sloughed off its responsibility for creating legislation, he said.

“The constitution says all legislation starts with the Congress, and the Congress critters have sloughed off to these agencies to regulate everything to death,” Krsiean said. “The Congress doesn’t have any kind of accountability for all of the rules created. So we need to shift accountability and responsibility back where it belongs.”

Republican primary

Duffy, a Hayward native who spent eight years serving as Ashland County district attorney, joined Congress in 2011.

In 2010, his Republican opponent, Raihala, ran as a Democrat against him.

Now, Raihala, a property manager in Superior, is hoping to unseat the conservative Congressman in the Aug. 12 primary. Raihala notes then he ran on the Democratic ticket, not as a Democrat in terms of values.

“The same message there is the same message now,” Raihala said. With the time and resources to serve, Raihala said he believes he can offer voters a more conservative alternative to the incumbent and can be part of the solution.

“I think if you look at the issues the country faces, they’re historic,” Duffy said. “I look at the rules and the regulation that come from Washington D.C. that make it harder for Wisconsin businesses to do business or start businesses. It’s important that we have common sense people in Washington fighting for middle America, which is what I’m doing.”

Duffy said it’s far easier for big business to comply with regulations than it is for small business — making it harder to start businesses that create jobs in our communities.

“I’m going to keep pushing on that front so we have an environment where businesses can grow and succeed and hire,” Duffy said.

Raihala said he is willing to listen.

“I like to see both sides of the argument, but it’s got to make financial sense,” he said. “ … if our house is a financial mess, then everyone’s going to come down at the same time. Quite frankly, I like going to the store and have my dollar be worth a dollar. I don’t want anything to happen to that.”

One issue that has kept Duffy busy since taking office is the regulation of banks and credit unions.

“I’m working to lift that burden off smaller institutions,” Duffy said. After all, if money isn’t flowing families and small businesses suffer. He said while banking needs to be regulated, it needs to be smart regulation that doesn’t harm the small institutions vital to communities.

“The spending madness — it’s got to eventually stop,” Raihala said. “I think I have the ability to be more consistent” in making decisions.

Raihala said he offers complete clarity; voters will know how he’s going to vote in Congress because his stance on issues will be consistent.

And people who want to know where he stands can read his stance on 34 issues on his website.

Duffy said among his priorities are ensuring energy independence with adequate infrastructure, maintaining the economies of the Great Lakes, and fighting to help people secure their privacy. He said people need to know the information is being gathered, or government agencies such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should get consent before gathering information from citizens. And he’s taken steps to make sure people know when third-party vendors are providing free apps or hosting services in exchange for gathering information on the students that use them. Duffy introduced an amendment to a bill to require colleges to notify students when vendors are collecting information; he will continue to work to require other schools to notify parents when information is gathered on younger students.

Raihala said his primary goal is the security of the nation.

And the top issues that need to be addressed include getting a handle on government spending, securing the nation’s borders and creating a stable environment that allows business to plan for growth, Raihala said.