The race for the 3rd Congressional District of Wisconsin (of which Crawford County is a part) has been a relatively quiet one compared to national and other Wisconsin political races this year, but that does not diminish its importance to the citizens of this region.
Incumbent Ron Kind (D-LaCrosse) is trying for his ninth term in congress, where he has served since 1997. He won 50.3 percent of the district-wide vote in 2010 against Republican challenger Dan Kapanke and Independent Michael Krsiean.
In this election, Kind is being challenged by Republican Ray Boland of Sparta; a 74-year-old retired U.S. Army Colonel running for public office for the first time.
Who is Boland?
Boland, a native of Chicago, has lived in Wisconsin since 1955, having moved to Adams County after graduating from high school. In 1956, he joined the Wisconsin National Guard at Stevens Point. Boland received a teaching certificate from Woods County Teacher College in Wisconsin Rapids, and entered the Wisconsin State Officer Candidate School in 1959.
Ray Boland taught elementary school for two and a half years before being called to active duty with the Wisconsin National Guard in 1961. He was mobilized with the National Guard’s 32 Infantry Division during the Berlin Crisis and deployed to Fort Lewis, Washington. Boland remained on active duty for 30 years, during which time he served two tours of combat duty in Vietnam, at one point commanding an attack helicopter unit in the 101st Airborne Division. He was also a brigade commander in the 3rd Infantry Division in Germany and a battalion commander in the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii.
Ray Boland received a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science from Troy (Alabama) State University in 1971. He also received a Master’s Degree in Communication from Shippensburg (Pennsylvania) State University in 1981. Boland is also a graduate of the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania and the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and has attended various military courses, including Army field artillery and aviation schools.
After serving as garrison commander of Fort McCoy, Wisconsin from 1988 to 1991 (during the Persian Gulf War mobilizations), Boland retired from the military at the rank of colonel. His military awards include the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart.
In 1992, Boland was appointed Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, tasked with overseeing the states’ nearly half a million veterans.
Boland was selected by his peers to serve two terms as president of the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs and served as vice-president of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans in Washington D.C. He has testified numerous times before Congress regarding veteran’s issues and legislation.
Ray Boland and his wife Donna have six children and 11 grandchildren. Boland runs a business, Boland & Associates Consulting, an “administrative management and general management consulting service” located at 106 East Elizabeth Court in the Town of Deerfield east of Madison.
There is no public voting record for Boland, as he has not served in public office.
Who is Kind?
Democrat Ron Kind was first elected to represent Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District in November 1996. Born in LaCrosse in 1963, Kind is the third of five children born to Greta and Elroy Kind, and is a fifth-generation LaCrosse area resident. He attended public schools in LaCrosse and was a standout student athlete at Logan High School.
Kind accepted a scholarship to Harvard, from which he graduated with honors in 1985. Kind was also the quarterback of the Harvard football team. During the summer, Kind worked with Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire in Washington, helping in investigations that helped determine the winners of the “Golden Fleece Awards” that were presented to those responsible for government waste.
Kind went on to receive a Master’s Degree from the London School of Economics and a Law Degree from the University of Minnesota. Kind practiced law for two years at the law firm of Quarles and Brady in Milwaukee before moving back to LaCrosse, where he worked as a LaCrosse County prosecutor and as a special prosecutor for numerous other western Wisconsin counties.
Ron Kind is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax policy, Medicare, Social Security, and international trade. He also serves on the Subcommittee on Health and the Subcommittee on Oversight.
Ron Kind served as a member of the Natural Resources Committee from 1996-2010, where he was a committee member and co-chair of the Upper Mississippi Caucus.
Kind is also vice-chair of the “New Democrat Coalition,” and co-chairs the Congressional Fitness Caucus, the Congressional Organic Caucus, the National Parks Caucus, and the Upper Mississippi River Basin Task Force. He is also the former co-chair of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.
Kind and his wife Tawni live in his hometown of LaCrosse, where she is an official court reporter for the county court system. They have two sons, Johnny, 16, and Matthew, 14. The Kind family are members of Immanuel Lutheran Church, part of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.
Ron Kind is also a member of the LaCrosse Optimists Club, a leader in the Boys and Girls Club, and the LaCrosse YMCA. He is also on the board of directors for Coulee Council on Alcohol or Other Drug Abuse.
From Jan. 1997 to Sep. 2012, Kind missed 254 of 10,913 recorded or roll call votes, which is 2.0%. This is better than the median of 2.5%.
On the Economy
While he generally believes that the federal government should get out of the way of economic development, when it comes to the economy of Western Wisconsin, Ray Boland has a vision for something that he knows well.
“One thing that I would do (for the economy of Western Wisconsin) is to lobby for Fort McCoy, which has more economic potential than anything else in the 3rd District,” Boland said.
According to Boland, Fort McCoy is one of the largest employers in the district with over 2,000 civilian employees and around 600 military employees. He believes that there is a political disconnect with how army bases have been ranked and how they have been funded by the Pentagon.
“One thing that I will lobby for is the stationing of a brigade of active duty army combat forces, of about 3,000-5,000 people, to be stationed at Fort McCoy,” said Boland. “This would greatly increase the number of civilian jobs on the base, as well. Training missions must be grown to the bases’ full potential.”
Boland believes that more troops at the base will increase construction and service industry jobs as infrastructure is modernized and developed.
“Fort McCoy has not seen its full potential because of a lack of advocacy in Washington,” said Boland, who would seek to be placed on the Armed Services Committee in order to put pressure on the Army to invest in growth, especially at Fort McCoy.
Ron Kind believes that it is most important to stimulate small businesses and family farms, which he credits with creating two out of every three jobs currently in the 3rd District.
“I will continue to invest in them to help our economy grow by encouraging small business lending programs to ease the risk associated with more challenging loans and by supporting other public-private programs that assist local banks and business support start-ups,” said Kind.
Kind also supports research and development tax credits, lowered tax rates, and increased support of technical training and retraining programs as ways to increase the manufacturing sector. He supports tax credits to help businesses develop, as well as investing in clean technologies and renewable energies that might capitalize on creative ways to wean America from foreign oil.
“We must also preserve middle-class tax cuts,” Kind said. “The last thing we need in the midst of a recession is to raise taxes on middle-class Americans. I support extending the tax cuts for all families making up to $250,000 a year.”
Both Ron Kind and Ray Boland support the U.S.’ military involvement in Afghanistan. Kind supports a timetable for withdrawal, while Boland resists the idea of a set withdrawal date in favor of a “long-term policy.”
Both candidates expect that Afghanistan should take responsibility for its security, economic reconstruction and self-governance.
Ron Kind is specifically concerned with whether or not the Karzai government can be held responsible or if the United States will be able to fully train the Afghan army to fight corruption and control the country.
Like Boland, Kind believes that it is critical that Afghan Security Forces provide security for their people and that Afghanistan not provide sanctuary for Al Qaeda. However, unlike Boland, Kind believes that the Obama administration has shown proper leadership in this effort.
Ray Boland can see Iran in the perspective of the Arab Spring.
“With the exception of Iran, we have seen a movement in that area towards freedom. This includes the movement in Syria right now,” said Boland. “I am less concerned at the moment with who they are electing as the fact that they are having elections. The people, including the people of Iran, will decide their own destiny.”
Both candidates believe that the U.S. should build up negotiations with other countries that are worried about a nuclear Iran. Boland believes the United States should deal with leadership that puts value on life, thus the “potential for rational decision making.” He says that he does not favor pre-umptive action against Iran, but that he will not rule it out.
Both candidates believe that the United States has a key role to play between the peaceful development and co-existence of Israel and Palestine.
Ron Kind has voted for sanctions against Iran for “not only their illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons but their blatant aggression towards Israel and the expansion of democracy in the region.”
Neither candidate apparently desires war with Iran.
Affordable Care Act
Ron Kind supports the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” while Boland would repeal it.
Kind believes that health care reform was long overdue, and believes that the Affordable Care Act “provides security and stability for families who like their (current) health insurance, offers affordable choices for those who don’t and institutes real consumer protections.”
Kind also believes that the health care reform will reduce the federal deficit.
“While the law isn’t perfect, it does take significant steps to get costs under control and provides important patient protections,” Kind said.
Ray Boland believes that the Affordable Care Act would add more spending, and vows to repeal “Obamacare.”
“We need to get rid of the big federal entitlement programs and the wasteful spending,” Boland said. He also says that he would work to write “patient-centered health care without increasing the size of government beaurocracy.”
The Farm Bill
While Kind and Boland have both voiced their dismay that the Farm Bill has not been agreed upon, their positions on certain key aspects of the Farm Bill are quite different.
Both candidates say that they believe that the Farm Bill must be for the benefit of small farmers. Commenting on the Farm Bill, Boland said that he thought it was unfortunate that Congress has not taken action, not only for organic farming, but also for the Wisconsin dairy industry in general.
“If I had been in Congress as long as my opponent” said Boland, “I would have had an impact on this issue.”
Ron Kind is the co-chair of the Congressional Organic Caucus, and points to specific problems with environmental issues and subsidies as currently laid out in the Farm Bill.
“We must end the huge taxpayer subsidies going to very few large agribusinesses,” Kind said. “They only distort the market and are not fair to our family farmers here at home.”
Boland also believes that subsidies should be addressed.
“It’s time to modernize subsidies. I am concerned with the amount of land tied up in subsidies,” said Boland, who said he believes that subsidies should be reduced or eliminated.
Boland went on to clarify that he believes that conservation subsidies should be cut in order to bring more land into commodity subsidies, such as corn and soybean production.
Boland also believes that food stamps should be removed from the Farm Bill.
On the whole
Challenger Ray Boland believes that Ron Kind has become “business as usual” in Washington. He does not believe that federal organizations as a whole have done a lot to get things done, and favors new leadership, including Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
“This business as usual practice of kicking the can of the future of this country down the road is unacceptable to me,” said Boland. “I couldn’t have gotten away with that while I was in the military and as secretary of Wisconsin’s Department of Veterans Affairs, and I won’t be doing that if elected.”
Kind believes that he is an effective and independent vote for the people of the 3rd District of Wisconsin in Washington, citing a recent study in which he was ranked as the fifth-most independent voter in Congress.
“I’m not afraid to stand up to political leadership if I think something doesn’t work for the people of western Wisconsin,” Kind said. “That’s what the people expect from me and that’s what I’ve been delivering.”