Rob Zerban wins Democratic primary to face Paul Ryan in 1st Congressional race

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Frank Schultz
August 12, 2014

JANESVILLE—Rob Zerban easily held off Amar Kaleka on Tuesday to become the Democrat's standard-bearer in the race to defeat Rep. Paul Ryan.

It didn't take long for the gloves to come off.

Ryan, fresh from his Republican primary win, issued a statement characterizing Zerban as wanting to expand federal spending, while Ryan wants to focus on creating jobs.

“That's interesting. Where was his focus in his last 16 years in Congress in creating jobs?” Zerban responded. “He hasn't done it yet. He had enough time to make it happen, and he has done anything but create jobs in the 1st Congressional District.”

Ryan beat Zerban in 2012 with 55 percent of the vote to Zerban's 43 percent. It was the narrowest margin of victory in the eight times Ryan had run for Congress.

But Zerban must overcome a huge fundraising deficit to win.

Paul Ryan has raised $5.97 million for his re-election bid, according to the latest information from the Federal Election Commission. Zerban raised $530,582.

“I'm confident we will raise the kind of resources we need to get out message out in the final part of the campaign,” Zerban said.

Zerban acknowledged he won't be able to match Ryan's war chest, “but the voters get to decide this race, not the people who support his campaign from afar with large dollars.”

Zerban said he has big differences with Ryan: Zerban wants to raise the minimum wage, while he said Ryan would abolish it, and Ryan's ideas about changing Medicare and welfare programs are wrong, Zerban said.

In a press release on the eve of the primary, Zerban sought to portray Ryan as out of touch:

“Paul Ryan has been in Washington for a long time,” Zerban said. “And he's changed since he got there. I no longer believe that he understands the needs and concerns of his home district. …

“Paul Ryan has to take responsibility for the most dysfunctional and unproductive Congress in history,” Zerban's statement continued. “They refuse to take action on jobs or raise the minimum wage, they haven't addressed the immigration crisis, and they aren't working to strengthen schools or communities. His focus on pleasing the tea party is not leadership, it's failure.”

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