Rob Zerban
Tuesday, 07 June 2011 00:00

Rob Zerban Is The First Wisconsin Democrat With A Chance To Beat Paul Ryan

Written by  Andrea Stone | Huffington Post

Democrats are looking to voters like Lenore Green to help defeat Rep. Paul Ryan next year. "I don't agree with everything he's doing, but he is trying," she said.

But Green finds the debate over Ryan's plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system confusing. "It should stay a government program," the former teacher said. She's "suspicious" of the impact the House Budget Chairman's proposal could have on the health insurance program for the elderly and disabled.

Democrats are looking to voters like Lenore Green to help defeat Rep. Paul Ryan next year.

Sipping a coffee at a farmer's market down the street from Ryan's hometown office, the 76-year-old retired teacher said she voted for the Wisconsin Republican last time. "I don't agree with everything he's doing, but he is trying," she said.

But Green finds the debate over Ryan's plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system confusing. "It should stay a government program," the former teacher said. She's "suspicious" of the impact the House Budget Chairman's proposal could have on the health insurance program for the elderly and disabled.

"It could affect my vote" in 2012, Green said.

This Wisconsinite is typical of older voters who dislike Ryan's plan. Green doesn't know much about his would-be Democratic challenger, Kenosha County Supervisor Rob Zerban, but she's eager to learn more.

Most Democrats on the ballot next year will run against the GOP plan for Medicare. Only Zerban will go mano-a-mano against the guy who "wrote the plan," as the Wisconsin Democrat put it to an ecstatic crowd at Saturday's state party convention.

"People see this as very extreme," Zerban told The Huffington Post in an interview in Milwaukee the following day. "What gives me the most confidence that I will be able to unseat him is that this budget plan is being rejected completely all around the country."

After the GOP's surprise loss in a special election in the much-redder 26th District of New York, Democrats declared Ryan's plan had put 100 Republican-held seats in play. First among them: The one belonging to the chairman of the House Budget Committee.

Zerban had already launched the website Hands Off My Grandma! when the New York election convinced state and national party leaders that the Kenosha official had the best chance to defeat Ryan since the Republican was first elected to Congress in 1998.

"Nothing would be sweeter" for Democrats than knocking off Ryan, said Kyle Kondik, an analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, in an email. "This race has symbolic importance to Democrats, but Republicans know that and will protect Ryan if things begin to look dicey."

Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate told HuffPost Tuesday that Ryan is "the single largest liability for the Republican Party unless Sarah Palin runs for president." He predicted tons of money would flow into the race from both sides of the political divide.

Paul Lindsay of the National Republican Congressional Committee downplayed the congressman's vulnerability. "Paul Ryan has weathered numerous tough elections in this swing district for a reason, and he will do so again," he said.

As for Ryan, he's gone on record saying he is "fine" with losing his seat because saving the country "from fiscal ruin" is more important than winning reelection.

Not that Medicare is the only issue likely to fuel huge turnout next year. Republican Gov. Scott Walker's battle with Wisconsin's public employee unions over collective bargaining has galvanized state Democrats. They hope to add a Walker recall petition to the November 2012 ballot to bring out even more like-minded voters attracted to the polls by a presidential year and an open Senate race.

Walker and Ryan "both have agendas that the public is rejecting," said Zerban, previewing the talking points Wisconsin Democrats will likely use every chance they get.

An Illinois native who moved to a lake shore condo in Kenosha in 2004, the 42-year-old Zerban started out as a Republican. He still recalls what a "big deal" it was in high school when he had his photo taken with Rep. Phil Crane (R-Ill.).

But after studying at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., and working on cruise ships plying the Eastern seaboard, "my understanding of the world broadened from a small town perspective," Zerban said. "I started to see how the Democratic Party advocated for human concerns as opposed to corporate concerns."

Zerban built a dining service business catering to suburban Chicago corporations. The 45 people employed by his firm were all provided with health insurance, he often notes. He sold it three years ago to get into politics.

A sailboat racer concerned about pollution in the Great Lakes, Zerban canvassed for the League of Conservation Voters. He was elected to the Kenosha County Board of Supervisors in 2008.

Zerban weighed running against Ryan last year but changed his mind, a "good decision" given the electoral tsunami that tossed House Democrats from power. But when Tate called in February, as thousands of workers surrounded the state capitol in Madison, he knew the time was right.

Ryan's 1st Congressional District stretches along the Illinois border from industrial Racine to the rolling farms of Rock County. Republicans, who control the state legislature, are expected to use redistricting to make it more red, pulling it west away from the bluer communities along the shores of Lake Michigan like Zerban's Kenosha. No matter: The U.S. Constitution says Zerban would still be legally eligible to run for the seat as long as he lives in Wisconsin.

As constituted today, the 1st is a swing district. It went for George W. Bush in 2004 and then narrowly for Obama four years later. In 2010, Ryan got 68 percent against a late-entering and little-known challenger. He has never tallied less than 63 percent in six re-election bids against token opposition.

But next year may be different. Zerban is expected to partially self-fund his campaign, but he will also get plenty of help from Democrats across the country.

"There is a natural, national fundraising appeal of people who will give $5 and $10 to help defeat Paul Ryan and the Ryan agenda," said Tate, who got encouragement when he visited Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee headquarters in Washington on Tuesday.

Whether Ryan wins an eighth term won't be determined on Capitol Hill, though. More relevant may be places like Clinton, a small village not far from Janesville. Regulars at the Clinton Kitchen diner are mostly Republican farmers and small business owners who share their views each morning over plates of biscuits and gravy with a fried egg on top.

Ryan "is trying to do what's right," said Glen Hahn, 84, a retired farmer who echoes many in the district's rural outposts. He's got no problem with Ryan's Medicare plan. "We've got to do something, but nobody wants to take a cut. It's take it away from somebody else, but don't take mine. Something's got to be done, or our kids will never get out of debt."

Voters like Hahn are why Kondik finds it difficult to imagine Ryan will lose. But if he does, the University of Virgina analyst said, "it will be because there is a Democratic tidal wave: A tidal wave that will have been created in no small part by Ryan’s budget proposal."

Link to original article from The Huffington Post

Read 5302 times Last modified on Sunday, 21 October 2012 16:13

Trans Pacific Partnership Fast Track - Where Does Your Legislator Stand

Click your state to see your Senators and Representatives

Green = Most Legislators Oppose Fast Track, Yellow = Some Opposition, Orange = Oppose TPP, Gray = Unknown
DeLauro 13 - Signed 2013 DeLauro/Miller letter
Pocan - Signed Freshman Letter Opposing Fast Track
W/M - Signed Ways and Means Letter opposing TPP
Gibson - Signed Rep. Chris Gibson letter opposing TPP
SOPA - Oppose Stop Online Piracy Act - voted against
Currency - Oppose Currency Manipulation (Signed Michaud Letter)
Textile - Oppose changes to "First Yarn" (Signed Textile Industry Letter)

ERA Legislation in your State

Unratified states Gold - Ratified States Purple

Latest News from the Zerban Campaign

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

    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.

    Written on Sunday, 02 September 2012 17:49
  • The Real Cost of the Ryan Budget
    The Real Cost of the Ryan Budget

    Everywhere I go during my campaign — parades, farmers markets, even the local deli — I keep hearing the same thing from Wisconsin voters. “We need real representation,” they tell me, “representation that’s focused on the people and what we need.”

    Written on Thursday, 09 August 2012 19:51
  • Zerban Submits 230% of Required Nomination Signatures Today
    Zerban Submits 230% of Required Nomination Signatures Today

    "The message is clear: Paul Ryan must be held accountable for his 14 years of failed decisions"

    Written on Saturday, 02 June 2012 01:34
  • A Man Who Looks Paul Ryan's Storm Dead in the Eye
    A Man Who Looks Paul Ryan's Storm Dead in the Eye

    "He had a minor in economics," Rob Zerban says of his opponent. "What experience does he have to say that he's the great budget oracle?" "The people of the First District can see where that budget impacts their lives. Their bridges start to crumble. We've got 16 bridges on federal highways alone in the district that have been declared structurally deficientm and that doesn't include county and local municipal bridges.

    Written on Friday, 27 April 2012 01:52
  • Rob Zerban Has My Vote in 2012
    Rob Zerban Has My Vote in 2012

    Typically during an election cycle, it often comes down to voting for the lesser of two evils. You choose the one who supports the issues most meaningful to you – or at least doesn’t outright defy them. It can be difficult to encounter a candidate who personifies the conviction and integrity you would imagine only in a perfect political world.

    Written on Sunday, 15 April 2012 18:11
  • Rob Zerban Statement on Paul Ryan’s FY2013 “Path to Poverty”
    Rob Zerban Statement on Paul Ryan’s FY2013 “Path to Poverty”

    Today, Rob Zerban, Democratic Congressional challenger to Congressman Paul Ryan, released the following statement in response to the introduction of Paul Ryan’s FY2013 “Path to Poverty” budget.

    “In yet another misguided handout to Wall Street at the expense of Main Street, Congressman Paul Ryan today introduced his latest budget plan, designed to place the blame for his 14 years of poor decisions squarely on the backs of our hardworking families.

    Written on Sunday, 15 April 2012 18:07
  • WI-01 Rob Zerban Campaign Kickoff Tour Highlights
    WI-01 Rob Zerban Campaign Kickoff Tour Highlights

    When I began this campaign, I made a commitment to serve as a voice of the people- not of corporations.

    I have been putting that into action. In the last few weeks, I have been working overtime to kickoff my campaign with rallies across the district.

    Written on Monday, 12 March 2012 00:00
  • John Nichols: How Rob Zerban forced Paul Ryan to defend Internet freedom

    The American Civil Liberties Union, Free Press and the Save the Internet campaign have made it clear that the Stop Online Piracy Act poses a genuine threat to human rights advocacy and whistleblowing on the Web.

    Written on Tuesday, 17 January 2012 00:00

Join "Countdown to Coverage" Share TPP with your Daily Newspaper

CWA devised a simple plan for which they were uniquely suited: drag TPP out of the shadows and into the light - one city at a time - using a medium they understand intimately: Daily Newspapers!

Two CWA members - Dave Felice in Denver, CO and Madelyn Elder in Portland, OR have started the ball rolling. We just need to keep up the momentum leading up to a big day of petition deliveries in January.


Step 1 is to send an Op-Ed to your Daily Newspaper.

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


Sign the TPP Fast Track Petitions Petition - Congress Don't Renew Fast Track

Pulic Citizen Petition - Congress Must Reject Fast Track Authority Petition - Stop the Trans Pacific Partnership

CREDO Petition - Stop the Massive Corporate Power Grab


Hand Deliver a Letter to your Senators or Representative on the TPP

If your Senator(s) and/or Representative is not currently opposed to Fast Track, they may not completely understand all the implications. Nothing sends a stronger message to a Congressional member than a personal visit to a district office by a voter with a written request. Phone calls and emails are incredibly important but nothing gets attention like a personal visit. Our Educate Congress page has information and a sample letter. Print the letter, sign it, deliver it.


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