DRIFTLESS - Well with the fall election right around the corner it seems interest in politics is peaking locally-especially on the Democratic side of the ballot. The Democrats have two candidates running for each of three different positions locally and that means there will be some contested primaries on Tuesday, August 11, the scheduled day for primary elections. Wisconsin State Senate District 32, Wisconsin State Assembly District 96 and the Crawford County Clerk will all be contested race in the primary.
The Crawford County Democratic Party kicked off the upcoming election season with a pair of candidate forums–held Sunday in Prairie du Chien and Monday in Gays Mills.
The forums featured three of the candidates, who are running for the three different offices. Each candidate will face an opponent in the Democratic Primary Election scheduled for August 11.
Probably the best known of the three was Brad Pfaff, who most recently held the position of Secretary Designee of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Pfaff was forced out of the position without being confirmed after serving more the 10 months by the Republican majority in the Wisconsin State Senate.
Pfaff is running to fill a seat vacated by long-serving Wisconsin State Senator Jennifer Shilling, who announced her resignation this spring. He will face political newcomer and Gays Mills resident Jayne Swiggum in the Democratic Primary.
Pfaff, in addition to serving most recently as the DATCP Secretary Designee, previously served as the Wisconsin Director for the USDA. Additionally, Pfaff has served as an aide to U.S. Representative Ron Kind and U.S. Senator Herb Kohl.
Due to a previous commitment, Pfaff arrived slightly late for the forum, which ran for about an hour-and-a-half. The experienced Pfaff was relaxed throughout the event held at the Gays Mills Lions Park Shelter on a warm summer afternoon, as he carefully explained his background and positions, and then took questions.
Among those joining Pfaff at the forum was Josefine Jaynes, a rural Readstown resident running for the Wisconsin State Assembly 96thDistrict. Jaynes, a very young woman who recently graduated from Kickapoo High School, seemed about as relaxed as the veteran Pfaff, as she made her 10-minute presentation and answered questions from the audience.
Jaynes said her decision to run and her experience was based on working on Paul Buhr’s campaign last year. Republican Loren Oldenburg, from rural Westby, defeated Buhr, a Viroqua area farmer, in that race and currently holds the 96thDistrict State Assembly seat.
Jaynes will face Tucker Gretebeck, a Cashton area farmer, in the August 11 Democratic Primary Election.
Kari Kronberg was the third candidate who joined Pfaff and Jaynes at the forum. Kronberg is currently the Town of Eastman Clerk and is running to become the next Crawford County Clerk, following the announcement of plans to retire earlier this spring of long-serving Crawford County Clerk Janet Geisler.
Kronberg will face Robyn Fischer in the Democratic Primary on August 11. Fischer is currently employed in the Crawford County Clerk’s office as an assistant clerk.
All of these candidates’ primary opponents will be featured in candidate forums scheduled for next week in Gays Mills on Tuesday, July 7 at 5 p.m. and in Prairie du Chien on Wednesday, July 8 at 5 p.m..
In her opening statement, Kari Kronberg emphasized her local roots both past and present. She noted that she was Lenzendorf raised in Eastman. She works for Peoples State Bank as debit card manager.
Kronberg attended Hamlin College in St. Paul, where she majored in business and minored in sports coaching. She also received a certificate in Spanish.
Coming out of college, she taught Spanish to eighth graders at the Catholic school in Prairie du Chien. However, teaching school was not her dream–she wanted to pursue a career in business. She began as a teller at Peoples State Bank and later became a manager.
Kronberg’s experience as the Town of Eastman Clerk opened her eyes to the complexities of local government and she has enjoyed the experience working as the town’s clerk.
Kronberg has known Janet Geisler for many years, as they both attend the same church. When the 24-year incumbent county clerk announced she would retire, Kronberg “decided to jump in and run.”
Kari Kronberg wants to serve the people of her community and her county.
“It’s my home,” she said. “its all I’ve known. You want to take care of your house and the people in it. This is sort of the same thing. We need leadership now more than ever.”
Kronberg emphasized she does not view her job as the newly elected clerk to criticize the way things are done. Instead, she wants to learn the lay of the land. Her ultimate goal is to have things in the clerk’s office done in the most efficient and most fiscally responsible way.
Kronberg has three grade school age children.“I’m a minivan mom,” she declared. “The clerk is sort of the mom for the county.”
Josefine Jaynes decided to run for the 96thDistrict State Assembly seat after being disappointed that Democrat Paul Buhr lost two years ago. Jaynes worked on the Buhr campaign. When she learned he was not running this year, she decided that despite her young age she would run. Jaynes is a 2020 graduate of Kickapoo High School.
While she has lived in rural Readstown since 2010, Jaynes was born in Alexandria Virginia. Her father, Rich Jaynes, is a retired colonel.
However, she credited her grandmother with raising her on a farm in rural Readstown.
Jaynes emphasized the importance of leaving Alexandria, Virginia to move to a farm one mile from her grandmother so the family could be closer to her after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
“This community raised me,” Jaynes said at one point.
The young candidate described being disappointed to see Buhr lose the assembly race. She particularly pointed to the gerrymandering of the district and the role dark money played in the election.
When she learned Buhr would not run, she wondered who would make the best candidate. The she decided.
“‘Why should my youth disqualify me?’ I asked myself. ‘Why not me?’”
Brad Pfaff’s presentation followed the presentation of Josefine Jaynes.
“It’s high time we get back to business,” Pfaff told the group. “We need to improve our schools, and roads and expand broadband internet, make health care better…and create economic development.”
Pfaff emphasized throughout his presentation that his concern was the well-being of farmers, small business owners and the rural community.
Pfaff pointed to his rural roots growing up on a dairy farm in northern LaCrosse County. He also pointed out that he is more than willing to work across the aisle in a bipartisan effort. He said this despite the dust-up with state senate Republicans during his 10-month tenure as the DATCP Secretary Designee.
“I will work with any Republican to improve health care.” Pfaff said. “I will work with any Republican to expand broadband. I will work with any Republican to fund our K-12 schools.”
Brad Pfaff told the group that he was raised on rural values on the dairy farm growing up with his dad and brother.
“We may not have agreed on how everything should be done,” he said. “But we knew when it was time to cut the hay and we knew the cows had to be milked twice a day. We knew we had to work together.”
The former Secretary Designee said he learned a lot while at DATCP, as he traveled the state and heard from the farmers about the problems they were facing.
Each of the candidates answered questions from the assembled audience of about a dozen people when the presentations were over.
Craig Anderson, the event’s moderator, asked the candidates what made them decide to run.
Kari Kronberg indicated going through the April election and having to educate voters and then conduct a large absentee vote was an awakening for her. It showed her the importance of the town and village clerks, and the county clerk in facilitating the elections.
“Last April nobody saw it coming,” Kronberg said. The Town of Eastman had 161 absentee ballots instead of a handful. The clerks got the job done.
Asked about conservation and agriculture, Pfaff noted that most farmers are exemplary as stewards of the lands. He believes making some dollars available for farmers to use to implement more conservation practices would be appropriate.
“We should provide farmers with opportunities to be good stewards of the land,” Pfaff said.
Both Pfaff and Jaynes acknowledged that outside money in the local race would be an issue.
Jaynes said it was not right for out-of-state interest groups to try and buy their way into the local election. She noted she will not accept PAC money and will only accept local money. She expects to be outspent in the general election.
“This a whole new ballgame though,” the young candidate said, citing in particular the expanding role of social media in reaching voters.
“I also expect to be outspent,” Pfaff said. “Kapanke and the Republicans will have more money than I will. However, I will raise enough to tell our story.”The final message for voters from all three candidates, who all face Democratic opponents in the primary, was the need to vote in the August 11 Democratic Primary Election.