Newsflash:
Rep. Barbara Lee Rob Zerban Meet the Man Who's Trying to Force Paul Ryan to Look for a Real Job
Sunday, 02 September 2012 17:49

Meet the Man Who's Trying to Force Paul Ryan to Look for a Real Job

Written by  Joshua Holland | AlterNet

Once again, Koch brothers cash will face off against a people-powered campaign in Wisconsin this November. The race is for a House seat in the first Congressional District, a seat now held by Paul Ryan. His challenger – the first serious challenge he's faced in 14 years in Congress – is Rob Zerban, a restaurateur and County Commissioner.

Zerban faces an uphill battle against Ryan, who has amassed one of the largest campaign war-chests for a House race this cycle. But Zerban thinks that Ryan's gotten an easy ride so far, with his extreme views having so far been obscured by his media-friendly public persona as a young wonk. (You can find out more about his campaign here.)

If Romney is defeated in November, and Zerban manages to pull off a victory against his better funded opponent, then Paul Ryan, whose private sector experience amounts to a single year working in his family's business, will end up looking for a job next January. He'd surely be a welcome addition to Fox News.

Zerban appeared on this week's AlterNet Radio Hour to introduce himself to those outside of Wisconsin, and discuss how the race is going. Below is a lightly edited transcript (you can listen to the whole show here).

Joshua Holland: I know you're in it to win it. But under Wisconsin law what would happen if Ryan were to win both races?

Rob Zerban: His election to the House would be null and void. He would be seated as vice-president and a special election would be held within 90 days after that.

JH: Were you surprised by Ryan’s selection? It seems like a very risky move for Mitt.

RZ: I agree with you. I think it’s going to cost Mitt Romney the presidential campaign. I also think it’s going to cost Paul Ryan his seat, because once they highlight all the various aspects of the Ryan "kill Medicare plan" people are going to see what they really stand for. I think they’re going to reject it wholeheartedly. I was a little surprised by it.

JH: It’s funny because Democrats in House races around the country are trying to nationalize the race and run against Ryan’s plan. You have a real easy time of that.

Paul Ryan has never had a serious challenge to reelection, has he? You’re the first competitive challenger since his election to Congress in 1998. Is that right?

RZ: That’s correct. I would never criticize somebody’s efforts in a congressional race about what they did or didn’t do, but I am Paul Ryan’s first serious challenger. I’ve raised over $1.4 million in this race already. The last guy who ran raised all of about $12,000. We were getting some strong signals that Paul Ryan was getting concerned about his reelection this time. He had spent three times more on his media buy than he’s ever done before. He raised almost $1 million last quarter and spend almost $750k of it. He had never done that before. It’s the first time people get to go to the polls and cast a ballot on whether they like his plan to privatize Medicare and Social Security. I’m convinced that this will be a winner for us as well.

JH: Tell us a little bit about Wisconsin’s first district. I know it went for George Bush in 2004, but it went for Obama in 2008. I take it that it’s a bit of a swing district.

RZ: It really is a swing district. There was a congressman by the name of Les Aspin who went to the Clinton administration as Defense Secretary. He represented this district for about 20 years before he was tapped by President Clinton. It is a really moderate district. President Obama carried the district with 52 percent of the vote in 2008. Even after redistricting, he still would have carried the 1st district with the 2008 vote totals.

JH: So we have a moderate district, and Paul Ryan -- by any honest accounting -- is a rather extreme conservative. He may be a nice guy and he may not be threatening to some. But political scientists use this analysis known as DW-Nominate scores to look at how lawmakers’ voting history places them on the ideological spectrum in Congress. According to that measure, Ryan is at about the same place as Michele Bachmann, the conspiracy theorist from Minnesota.

Are you making that argument as a central part of the campaign? Or have you determined that the media narrative about Ryan’s supposed “seriousness” is too deeply embedded to dislodge?

RZ: For a long time he’s been able to hide his ideology and his extreme views. He would come into the district and he would talk a very moderate game, and then he would go to Washington and be one of the most partisan legislators there is. For a long time nobody would call him out on this. Now that he’s the one who authored this radical, out-of-touch plan, people can see where he really stands. Now that he’s running as vice-president, he can no longer hide that he was doing this to serve his own personal ambitions, and not to serve the people of the 1st district. These are radical ideas. These are not ideas that come from the people I’m talking to across the First Congressional district -- in Janesville, Racine and Kenosha.

JH: And it’s not just the Ryan plan that would reduce government down to a stump of healthcare, social security and military spending; he also cosponsored a personhood amendment with Missouri representative Todd Akin. He doesn’t believe that abortion should be legal even in the case of rape, incest, or if the life or health of the mother is at risk. People do need to fully appreciate what kind of agenda Paul Ryan is bringing to the national ticket, and also to your district.

You served two terms as a Kenosha County Board Supervisor, but before that you had a couple of small businesses. You say on your Web site that you grew up in a single parent household eating “government cheese.” You’re kind of a classic success story. You went to school on Pell Grants -- which Ryan’s budget would do away with. You come from business experience.

RZ: I am. I’ve lived my version of the American dream. I was only able to do that because our government was there when I needed help. I realize that being a successful small business owner -- someone who employed 45 people, providing excellent wages and benefits -- I realize that this isn’t something I accomplished all on my own. Our government helped me get an education on Pell Grants and loans, I was able to go on and start these small businesses. I want to make sure economic opportunity exists for everybody in this country, not just the wealthy and the well-connected.

There’s a big difference between Paul Ryan and me. He grew up in privilege with a silver spoon in his mouth and I grew up very poor. After college I went out and started two small businesses, and after college he went out and worked in Washington DC, and has lived off of everybody’s tax dollars ever since. I think we need more people with my experience. People who have had to write responsible budgets, and balance benefits. It’s something that he’s never done. You can tell from the Ryan budget that it’s a plan that could only come from an out-of-touch Washington insider.

JH: In a sense you’re almost flipping Romney’s script. Romney accuses the president of being someone who has never run a business. Here you have Paul Ryan -- whom I’ve heard referred to as a “self-loathing public servant.”

All eyes have been on Wisconsin in the last year or two since the election of Scott Walker. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the street last year to oppose his draconian assault on working people. Despite being hugely outspent, the grassroots almost recalled him. They came very close and did recall several sitting senators. Were you involved in all of that? Did it impact your decision to run?

RZ: It did to a degree. My wife and I were in Madison marching around the capitol protesting the changes Scott Walker was bringing with his attack on working families and collective bargaining rights. My wife is a teacher in the state of Wisconsin. Our family was deeply impacted by these changes he was making to the public sector. I was contacted by the Democratic party and they said, "we know Paul Ryan is going to come out with a horrible plan. We want to have the best possible candidate to run against him to win the seat back. Put people on notice that if they’re going to attack the social safety net -- Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security -- that you’re going to lose your seat."

We assisted the recalls. In Kenosha, we paid for an office where the volunteers worked. We let them use our computers to make sure we were contacting as many voters as possible. We were active participants in that recall effort.

JH: We’ve seen a lot of progressives in the Democratic base threw their support behind various candidates, only to be disappointed to learn that those candidates don’t really represent their values when they get to Congress. How would you govern? What agenda would you pursue in congress?

RZ: I don’t really know how other people would perceive me. I approach things from a common-sense perspective. I think this is a lot of what’s been missing in Washington.

I tell people I support Medicare for All, and my opponent supports Medicare for None. I don’t support Medicare for all because I want to rehash the battles of the Affordable Care Act. I support Medicare for all because I look at this and see that we’re missing a hell of an opportunity here. If we had Medicare for all then we would be able to unleash the economic engine of small entrepreneurship that once existed in this country. People don’t start small businesses because they’re afraid of being bankrupted by unpaid medical bills, because they can’t afford these out of reach policies by private insurance. As a small businessman, I provided some of the best healthcare available and I saw my rates go up year after year by as much as 18 percent.

So we have one party in a two-party system protecting the profits of one industry, which are cannibalizing the profits of other small entrepreneurs and businesses, and putting the health and safety of our nation at risk by doing so. We spend 18 percent of our GDP on healthcare costs. That’s more than double the amount of any other Western, industrialized nation out there. If we don’t get this under control, it’s going to put us at a serious competitive disadvantage in the long term. It’s already starting to show an effect. I’m a common sense Democrat. Maybe people call me a progressive. I certainly see myself as a progressive because I believe in progressive values of things that help people.

We need to make sure we have legislators who are going to invest in education, infrastructure. If we’re not going to be the leaders in these areas then someone else will be. I’ll do whatever I can. I’ve worked hard my entire life. I’ve got a head full of white hair at the age of 44. I earned it all honestly. I will continue to work hard for the people for the First Congressional district and everybody around this country.

JH: Ryan is basically the product of a lot of corporate cash, a lot of it from out of state. He’s always gotten a ton of funding from outside donors. He has a significant cash advantage right now. How is the campaign going? You now find yourself in one of those House races that is nationalized. Everybody is looking at it.

RZ: He has raised a lot of money from special interests, Wall Street and banks. We know we can be outspent and still win this race. In the end it’s the people in the First district who decide who gets to represent them, not corporate interests.

Read 3419 times Last modified on Sunday, 02 September 2012 17:51

ERA Legislation in your State

Unratified states Gold - Ratified States Purple

Latest News from the Lee Campaign

Latest News from the Grayson Campaign

Latest News from the Schapira Campaign

  • Standard-Bearer in Pivotal Arizona Congressional Race
    Standard-Bearer in Pivotal Arizona Congressional Race

    With early ballots in the mail, and only three weeks from the August 28th primary, State Senator David Schapira has emerged as the Democratic standard-bearer in a closely watched and increasingly nasty three-way congressional race in Arizona that many observers see as a litmus test for national Democratic chances to pick up critical seats in Congress.

    Written on Thursday, 09 August 2012 01:45 Read more...
  • Harry Mitchell Endorses David Schapira for Congress
    Harry Mitchell Endorses David Schapira for Congress

    “The primary in Congressional District 9 has pitted three of the brightest members of the Democratic Party in Arizona against each other. All three candidates are leaders in our state and I am honored to call them friends.

    Written on Thursday, 26 July 2012 12:14 Read more...
  • A Guest Post From Arizona Progressive State Senator David Schapira
    A Guest Post From Arizona Progressive State Senator David Schapira

    Endorsements are a funny thing. Most of them aren't worth anything at all. I have two friends running in the Democratic primary in Arizona's brand new 9th CD, Kyrsten Sinema and Andrei Cherny. Kyrsten is a progressive and Andrei is somewhere in his own world ideologically. But the third guy... well, he's the one who's been endorsed by Raúl-- and by PDA. Whomever wins the August 28th primary is, likelier than not, headed to Congress. That third guy is David Schapira, the Senate Democratic Leader.

    Written on Saturday, 30 June 2012 13:38 Read more...
  • David Schapira Receives PDA Endorsement
    David Schapira Receives PDA Endorsement

    On the May Inside the Party call, David Schapira (AZ-9) received the PDA National endorsement. Currently David Schapira is the Arizona State Senate Democratic Leader.

    Written on Thursday, 24 May 2012 00:00 Read more...
  • Arizona Communications Workers of America State Council Endorses David Schapira for Congress
    Arizona Communications Workers of America State Council Endorses David Schapira for Congress

    The Arizona Communications Workers of America (CWA) State Council announced today their endorsement of Senate Democratic Leader David Schapira, D-Tempe, in the race for Arizona’s Ninth Congressional District. The state council is comprised of the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association (AZCPOA), the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA and multiple CWA local affiliates.

    Written on Thursday, 17 May 2012 19:55 Read more...
  • Congressman Raúl Grijalva Endorses David Schapira
    Congressman Raúl Grijalva Endorses David Schapira

    Congressman Raúl Grijalva, AZ-07, today announced his endorsement of Arizona Senate Democratic Leader David Schapira, D-Tempe, in his campaign for Arizona’s Ninth Congressional District. “Voters are looking for candidates who stand up for what they believe in and can win, not by hiding their values, but by sharing them with voters. David is that candidate,” said Rep. Grijalva.

    Written on Monday, 30 April 2012 00:00 Read more...
  • Arizona Union Rights Stripped

    Arizona Governor Jan Brewer pushes the country's most anti-union agenda yet. David Shapira, Democratic leader of the Arizona state senate, slams his Republican colleagues. Welcome back to "The Ed Show." Jan Brewer and the Arizona Republicans are on a tear. they are on the offensive. they are on a mission to completely destroy public employee unions. have you heard the story before?

    Written on Thursday, 02 February 2012 00:00 Read more...
  • State Senator David Schapira Jumps Into District 9 Congressional Race
    State Senator David Schapira Jumps Into District 9 Congressional Race

    As predicted, former state Senator Kyrsten Sinema's not the only Democrat with her eye on Arizona's new Congressional seat -- this morning, state Senate Minority Leader David Schapira announced that he, too, will run in Arizona's newly formed 9th Congressional district.

    Written on Tuesday, 17 January 2012 00:00 Read more...

Sign the Petition - Sen. Sanders Run as a Democrat in 2016

Button-SandersPetition

Like Rep. Barbara Lee

Lori Wallach on the TPP from PDA Progressive Roundtable

Progressive Roundtable with Reps. Ellison and Pocan and Lori Wallach on TPP

TPP: The Biggest Threat to the Internet You've Probably Never Heard Of