Congressional candidate Cooke visits the CF and touts his farming experience

April 14 – CHIPPEWA FALLS – Rebecca Cooke says she doesn’t mind being the underdog in the Democratic race for the 3rd congressional district nomination.

“I’m not the establishment Democrat,” Cooke said during a visit to Chippewa Falls on Wednesday. “I’m not the legacy candidate. I’m the only working-class person in this race, and I think that’s what people are looking for.”

Cooke added, “I know the people (in western Wisconsin) don’t want a political elite representing them in Congress.”

Cooke, 34, owns an Eau Claire company, and she is among six Democratic candidates seeking to replace U.S. Representative Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, in Congress. His opponents are retired pediatric intensive care physician Mark Neumann of La Crosse, State Senator Brad Pfaff of Onalaska, former CIA officer and U.S. Army Captain Deb McGrath of Menomonie and the political newcomer Brett Knudsen of Holmen, and Justin Bradley of La Crosse. The deadline for submitting applications is June 1.

Derrick Van Orden, a former Navy SEAL who lives in Prairie du Chien, is the only Republican to run for the seat, considered one of the most competitive in the country. Kind beat Van Orden in 2020 by just under 3 percentage points.

The partisan primary will take place on August 9, followed by general elections on November 8.

To get his name out there and try to stand out in the crowded Democratic field, Cooke is heading to a 19-county tour of the congressional district. His one-day stop in Chippewa County included visiting a family farm that milks 400 cows, three times a day.

“It was important for me to show up at the farms and hear from them directly,” Cooke said. “I want to be a real defender.”

She also met with a group of seniors to discuss rising drug prices and scheduled a meeting with young professionals.

Money is always a factor in big races, for ad buying and candidate awareness.

“We stay competitive,” Cooke said. “And we’re a rambling campaign.”

Cooke has operated a retail store, Red’s Mercantile, in downtown Eau Claire for six years and the non-profit organization Red Letter Grant since 2016. Red Letter Grant, which provides start-up capital, technical assistance and networking opportunities for women entrepreneurs in a 10-county region of western Wisconsin, helped launch 23 women-owned businesses.

Born and raised on a dairy farm just west of Eau Claire, Cooke also served on the board of Downtown Eau Claire Inc. and was appointed by Governor Tony Evers to the board of directors of Wisconsin Economic Development. Corp., where she is co-chairman. of the new Entrepreneurship & Innovation Committee. After graduating from Eau Claire North High School and St. Thomas University in St. Paul, she served as the financial director of several political campaigns, including the successful 2014 re-election bid by the congressman. California Democrat Raul Ruiz. She continued to do political consulting after returning to Eau Claire in 2015.

Cooke, calling herself a “farmer’s daughter”, had a traumatic day on her farm in the town of Wheaton on Tuesday. A barn caught fire; luckily they were able to pull out a tractor and their cattle were on a hill and not nearby.

“It’s almost part of our history and our heritage, and it’s gone,” Cooke said. “It was really shocking. It was really emotional, frankly.”

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