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Majority leader targets higher office

The race for the state's second highest elected office is heating up. Wednesday, Assembly Majority Leader Tom Nelson, D-Kaukauna, was in Superior to announce he was making a run for lieutenant governor. Nelson is among a field of five seeking the...

Tom Nelson

The race for the state's second highest elected office is heating up.

Wednesday, Assembly Majority Leader Tom Nelson, D-Kaukauna, was in Superior to announce he was making a run for lieutenant governor.

Nelson is among a field of five seeking the Democratic nomination for seat. He said he made the decision to run after discussing the run with the front-running Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Convinced Barrett would empower the office in a way that would enable Nelson to accomplish his goals, Nelson said he decided to run.

"The lieutenant governor's office is only as effective as the governor allows it to be," Nelson said. He said Lt. Gov. Barb Lawton has demonstrated how effective the office can be, which he believes is the reason there is so much interest in running for the seat.

"I want to extend the reach of this office," Nelson said.

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Nelson is challenging Sen. Spencer Coggs of Milwaukee, Henry Sanders of Waunakee, James Schneider of Gotham and T. Anthony Zielinski of Milwaukee for the Democratic nomination.

Superior Mayor Dave Ross, state Rep. Brent Davis of Oregon, Ben Collins of Lake Geneva and Rebecca Kleefisch of Oconomowoc are vying for the Republican nomination; and Terry Virgil, a Libertarian from Fort Atkinson is running for the seat.

"The next lieutenant governor must remain focused, like a laser, on economic development," Nelson said. "Central to this issue is the understanding of our state's unique economy, the realization that Wisconsin's economy is both broad and diverse. It includes agriculture, energy, manufacturing, forestry, paper, shipping, dairy, meat processing, biotech, nanotechnology and tourism. To focus just narrowly on one of those components, as some may do, at the exclusion of others does not help our local economies."

Nelson said job creation was a focus of the recently completed legislative session.

And it was his focus on his legislative responsibilities that delayed his decision to run until there were fewer than four months before the primary election that will decide the Democratic candidate for the lieutenant governor's office.

"I decided if I was going to run for this office, I was not going to do so before the end of the legislative session," Nelson said. "There was just too much work on the table that had to get done before we started getting involved in politics ... I think it would have been a grave mistake if I, instead of focusing on those job bills, would have been focusing on a campaign."

Nelson was elected to the assembly in 2004 and has served as the majority leader since 2009. In spite of a later-than-most start in the campaign, Nelson is confident his hard work again will pay off in September.

"When I first ran for state assembly, I was considered an under underdog," Nelson said Wednesday morning on Barker's Island. "I wasn't on anyone's radar. But with hard work and determination, I knocked on 22,000 doors and won. I was the only Democrat in the state that year to defeat a Republican incumbent."

Related Topics: SUPERIOR
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