032422-lt-nws-pfas-session-1.jpg (copy)

State Sen. Brad Pfaff, D-Onalaska, is the opposite of his Republican opponent Derrick Van Orden, a toxic bully aligned with Donald Trump. 

Congress has become a nasty place. Petty partisans and rigid ideologues spend more time trying to tear one another down than they do on the people’s business. As a result, the big challenges facing America go unaddressed, while divisions seem to keep widening.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Wisconsin’s representatives in Washington used to work across lines of partisanship and ideology to get things done. And they could again if voters choose candidates like Brad Pfaff, the Democratic nominee in western Wisconsin’s 3rd District.

Pfaff wants to renew that spirit of cooperation that once existed in the state’s congressional delegation — and in Congress as a whole. It won’t be easy, but Pfaff’s record confirms his commitment to putting his country and constituents first. That’s why he has our enthusiastic endorsement in the race for the Third Congressional District seat that came open when longtime Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, decided not to seek reelection.

Pfaff grew up on a farm in rural La Crosse County, and he has devoted much of his adult life to working on issues of concern to farm families and to the people who live in small towns and small cities of the counties along the Mississippi River and inland toward central Wisconsin. A native of the countryside around West Salem who met his wife at a 4-H luncheon, Pfaff has worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency and in the offices of legislators from farm country. He was appointed by Gov. Tony Evers to serve as secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Pfaff did a great job in the position, highlighting the need for building out broadband service across Wisconsin and demanding adequate mental health funding for often neglected rural communities. His advocacy was plainspoken and well-informed, which did not sit well with some of the partisans in the Legislature who didn’t want to have to respond to the needs of farmers who were struggling to keep their farms and their lives going during the coronavirus pandemic. But Pfaff refused to back down, and people noticed.

In 2020, Pfaff’s friends and neighbors elected him to the state Senate as the representative from the 32nd District, which includes La Crosse and Crawford counties, along with the southern half of Monroe County and much of Vernon County. In the Senate, he has distinguished himself as the ranking member of the Agriculture and Tourism Committee.

Pfaff’s record makes him an ideal fit for the 3rd District, with its mix of farm country, small towns and mid-sized cities — all of which he has represented.

Unfortunately, Pfaff is facing a Republican candidate who is pulling in special-interest money from across the country to fund a free-spending campaign that exemplifies everything that is wrong with contemporary politics. The right-wing money machine loves Derrick van Orden. He’s their sort of politician. A bitter man who picks fights on social media — in the style of his political mentor, Donald Trump — Van Orden is a bully who famously harassed a teenage staffer at the Prairie du Chien Memorial Library because he was upset by a display of books on LGBTQ topics.

Van Orden traveled to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, and joined insurrectionists on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. He lied about what he was doing in D.C. and got caught, in one of the more embarrassing chapters of that awful day.

We could go on about Van Orden, but there’s really only one thing that voters in the 3rd District need to know. If Van Orden is elected, he will not serve them. He will serve the special-interests that funded his campaign and the right-wing ideologues with whom he keeps company. He will be another loudmouth with nothing useful to say.

Brad Pfaff is the opposite of Derrick Van Orden. Pfaff will never embarrass western Wisconsin. He will show up early and stay late, keeping farm-family hours as he serves the people who elected him. That may sound a little old-fashioned. But, to our view, that’s exactly what’s needed in Congress at this turbulent moment in American history.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@captimes.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.