The second congressional district — which represents a large swath of southeastern Wisconsin including Dane, Iowa, Lafayette, Sauk and Green counties — is a blue stronghold.
Incumbent Mark Pocan will seek his fifth term to the office. He’s represented the district since 2013, after now-Senator Tammy Baldwin vacated the seat.
But come this November 3rd, Republican candidate Peter Theron will attempt for the third time to take the district from Pocan.
Theron ran against Pocan in 2014 and 2016, losing by about forty percent.
In 2008, running against then Representative Tammy Baldwin, Theron also lost the district by about forty percent. And in 2010, he didn’t even win the Republican primary.
To win this year, Theron would likely have to win over voters in the deeply blue heart of the district — Madison.
Speaking with Wisconsin Eye in September, Theron critiqued the way the state’s cities handled the summer’s protests against police brutality. He argues that a “one-party monopoly” on cities like Madison and Milwaukee results in a less-than-effective police force.
“The cities that are burning are run by Democrat mayors and have been run by Democrat mayors for generations,” Theron said. “They’re in states run by Democrat governors, so I believe that what we really need is not policing reform, but Democratic reform.”
Theron also defended the officers involved in the shooting of Jacob Blake in August, when Kenosha Police officer Rusten Sheskey fired seven shots into Blake’s back while his children were only a few feet away.
“Out of context video tapes of police action, people look at that and say that’s not a fair fight,” he said. “You have a number of police swarming on one person. That’s how they’re trained. Police are not trained to have a fair fight, police are trained to have a fast fight.”
Pocan, meanwhile, told Wisconsin Eye last month that he supported stronger federal standards on policing. Pocan previously supported the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the democrat-controlled house this summer, but collapsed in the Senate.
“I think if we have truck drivers that have to pass a certain test and have a uniform set of training, why wouldn’t we have that with law enforcement?”
The candidates are also split on the future of the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court is set to consider the legality of the Obama-era program shortly after the November election. With the likely confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the high court, the future of the program is more up in the air than ever.
Theron argues that the federalization of healthcare is inefficient, and that healthcare programs should be administered and regulated on a state-by-state basis.
“Obamacare took away a number of things that were working fairly well. When those final bits are washed away, I think those pieces that were working well will re-emerge,” Theron said.
Pocan, meanwhile, is an ardent supporter of the federal healthcare system. He says that, even if the Supreme Court tosses out the program, federal Democrats will work to reinstall it.
“The Plan B will be, hopefully we have a new President, a new Senate and Democrats retain Congress,” Pocan said. “We will strengthen the ACA. If they throw it out, we’ll fix whatever they said is unconstitutional and we’ll improve on it.”
On immigration reform, Theron is a supporter of Donald Trump’s efforts to build a border wall. He has also spoken out against creating a path to legal citizenship for DACA recipients — a program that offers asylum and temporarily blocks deportation for immigrants brought to America as children.
“The wall is working, and yes it should be finished. According to President Trump, it’s closing in on it everyday.”
Pocan has also expressed that he would like to increase border protections along the U.S. Mexico border, but he believes those increases should come alongside a legal path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.