When voters cast their ballots in the Aug. 14 primary election, two Democratic hopefuls are vying for a chance to unseat U.S. Rep Sean Duffy.
The Republican has served as the 7th District representative of Wisconsin since 2011.
Margaret Engebretson, 46, a 24-year military veteran and lawyer from Balsam Lake, and Brian Ewert, 59, of Marshfield, a physician and former president of the Marshfield Clinic, are running for the Democratic nomination in the 7th Congressional District in Wisconsin. The winner will challenge Duffy in November.
"I started getting interested in this about a year ago now, when the House passed the bill that destroyed, decimated the health care of the very patients I've been committed to serving for 25 years," Ewert said. "So I gave a series of talks in town and people would bring up the idea: why don't I run for Congress?"
After a successful effort to get United to Amend on the ballot, which gave residents of Marshfield, Wisconsin, a chance to voice their opinion of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, Ewert said he decided to run.
"My motivation is making sure the patients I take care of have health care, and also protecting our democracy," Ewert said.
After the 2016 election, Engebretson was not working and recovering from shoulder surgery when she decided to get involved. A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Naval Reserve and the Minnesota Air National Guard, she decided to get involved in party politics for the first time in her life and joined the Polk County Democrats.
"I was very concerned about the direction that candidate Trump and the Republicans ... in both houses of Congress, and the direction they wanted to take our country," Engebretson said. "In addition, the attack on our democracy, our election system by the Russian government, and the lack of or the tepid response to that attack really alarmed me. Because I was recovering from surgery, I had time to really dig in and think about what is ailing our country."
The problems are many - special interest, corporate and dark money in politics; income inequality; voter suppression; and gerrymandering subverting the people's wishes, she said.
"So, combining all of these factors, I took a good look at my representative in Congress, Sean Duffy, and he is not adequately representing the 7th Congressional District," Engebretson said. "So I set on a path to unseat him."
Both candidates agree the role of a congressional representative is two-fold: to uphold the Constitution and to represent the interests of the people in the district.
"There's always the tension that there's the half a year's worth of time that needs to be spent in Washington, doing the job there, but that means half the year, the representative needs to be present in the district and interacting with constituents and being at events, being witness to the troubles," Ewert said.
"The oath of office that members of Congress take when they're sworn in - it has two parts. One is to support and defend the constitution, and the other part is to faithfully execute the duties of office," Engebretson said. She said to achieve that, Congress has to be a check on the balance of power among the executive and judicial branches in addition to fighting for the people they represent.
And one issue that threatens the livelihoods of many rural farmers and small manufacturers across Wisconsin's 7th Congressional District is a matter over over which Congress has the authority to act to stop executive branch overreach, Ewert and Engebretson agree.
"That's one of the few delineated powers of Congress is actually to be in charge of tariffs and international trade," Ewert said. "If you look at the agricultural tariffs, which is now being done in a retaliatory nature so every fourth row of soybeans no longer has a market. Fifty percent of our cheese goes to Mexico. We now have retaliatory tariffs there. Cheese storage is at an all-time high and prices are at a 10-year low. We need to be reversing this as fast as possible. Unfortunately, it takes years to develop markets and only weeks to destroy them."
Engebretson said it's not helping that Duffy is ramping up the rhetoric about American allies and calling them "economic terrorists" because they introduced tariffs in reaction to those imposed by the United States.
"Congress already has the authority to repeal the Trump tariffs and end the Trump trade war, and it should do that immediately ... What is going on here exceedingly dangerous, and it's getting worse by the day," Engebretson said.