Rep. Ron Kind (D)
Elected: 1996, 7th term.
Born: March 16, 1963, La Crosse .
Home: La Crosse.
Education: Harvard U., B.A. 1985, London Schl. of Econ., 1986, U. of MN, J.D. 1990.
Family: Married (Tawni); 2 children.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1990–92; Asst. st. prosecutor, La Crosse Cnty., 1992–96.
The congressman from the 3rd District is Ron Kind, a Democrat elected in 1996. He grew up in a large family in La Crosse, the son of a telephone repairman and a secretary in the local schools. He went to Harvard University on a scholarship and played quarterback. He worked as a summer intern for Democratic Sen. William Proxmire, doing research for Proxmire’s Golden Fleece awards pointing out wasteful government spending. Kind attended the London School of Economics and the University of Minnesota’s law school, practiced law in a large firm in Milwaukee, then returned home to La Crosse to work as an assistant prosecutor on rape and sexual-abuse cases. Kind started running for Congress soon after moderate Republican Steve Gunderson announced in 1994 that he would not seek re-election. Former state Sen. Jim Harsdorf won the Republican primary and made a hard-edged case for a balanced budget and for Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson’s “Wisconsin Works” welfare-reform program. Kind presented his own balanced-budget proposal and urged reform of the campaign-finance system. Kind won, 52%-48%.
|Ron Kind (D)||225,208||(63%)||($916,105)|
|Paul Stark (R)||122,760||(34%)||($59,942)|
|Kevin Barrett (Lib)||8,236||(2%)|
|Ron Kind (D)||18,039||(100%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (65%), 2004 (56%), 2002 (63%), 2000 (64%), 1998 (71%), 1996 (52%)
In the House, Kind has compiled a moderate voting record. With dairy farming prominent in his district, he is vitally interested in issues affecting farmers. In 2007, he joined with conservative deficit hawks and suburban and urban Democrats in an attempt to add provisions to the farm bill that would have changed federal policy for agricultural subsidies and provided more funds for land conservation and school nutrition. “For too long, we’ve had large taxpayer subsidies going to a few very large farming entities to the disadvantage of family farmers,” Kind said. “It ultimately distorts the marketplace and distorts trade policy, which also hurts agriculture.” Although his district receives more farm subsidies than most others, he said that the vast majority of producers he represents don’t get huge agriculture subsidies because they’re not large agribusinesses. Kind won 200 votes for similar provisions in the 2002 farm bill, including support from then-Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi, but this time around, the Democratic leadership was worried about angering farmers’ groups in rural swing districts and refused to allow a vote by the full House. The plan died in committee. Kind voted against the final version of the farm bill, calling it a “nightmare.” He said that congressional negotiators “managed to avoid every opportunity to reform wasteful, outdated subsidies while piling on additional layers of unnecessary spending.”
Kind is a co-founder of the Upper Mississippi River Congressional Task Force. His own home is on the river and was flooded in 2001. With members from Illinois and Iowa, he got the House to pass a bill to establish a water-quality monitoring network in the Upper Mississippi River Basin. As co-chairman of the centrist New Democrat Coalition, he said he wanted to expand access to broadband in rural areas and make his area “the Silicon Valley of agricultural research.” On foreign policy, Kind voted for the use of force in Iraq in 2002, for which he was criticized by liberals back home. Like many other lawmakers, he has since become critical of Bush-era policies in Iraq. He and Republican Paul Ryan of Wisconsin co-chair the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, a group of pro-conservation hunters who make up the largest bipartisan caucus in the House.
In 2004, Kind had his first credible challenger, Republican state Sen. Dale Schultz, a moderate in the Wisconsin Legislature for more than two decades. Schultz ran with an unlikely Republican theme, criticizing Kind as a free trader who had sent jobs overseas. Kind affirmed his support for trade agreements, but he criticized the Bush administration for its failure to enforce their labor and environmental protection terms. Schultz backed Bush’s handling of the war and promised to do more for agriculture, while Kind called for more support for education. Kind won, 56%-43%. He did not have a serious challenger in 2008 and won with 63% of the vote.