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Eau Claire business owner Cooke enters 3rd District House race

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The race to replace Ron Kind of La Crosse in Congress is starting to get crowded. 

Eau Claire businesswoman Rebecca Cooke is the latest announced candidate for the 3rd District House seat held by Democrat Kind, who’s not seeking reelection after 13 terms.

If elected, Cooke would be the first woman to represent Wisconsin’s 3rd District in the US House of Representatives. So far, Gwen Moore and Tammy Baldwin are the only two women ever elected to Congress from Wisconsin.

Cooke’s family has owned a dairy farm in the Eau Claire area. She also owns and operates Red’s Mercantile and founded the Red Letter Grant in 2016, a nonprofit that supports female entrepreneurs.

Cooke wants to see fewer “career politicians” in Washington, and more “people that have had real-life experiences and are coming off the sidelines of jobs that they’ve worked to be reflective of what our district looks like.”

She says voters want to see “a Congress that people can say, hey, she gets me, ’cause she’s been in my shoes, you know, she runs a small business, she grew up on a farm.”

Cooke enters the Democratic primary days after State Senator Brad Pfaff became a candidate in the 3rd District.  Also running for Democrats is political newcomer Brett Knudsen, setting up an Aug. 9 primary.

Cooke started a retail store called Red’s Mercantile, and was appointed by Gov. Tony Evers to the board of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

Republican Derrick Van Orden, who was defeated by Kind in 2020, is running again and has support from former President Donald Trump and Republican House leadership. Van Orden charges that every Democrat in the race would likely be a “rubber stamp” for Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But Cooke argues that Republicans are using Pelosi as a “boogie man,” and she says “I’m my own self, I’m my own candidate.”

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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