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Eau Claire businesswoman Cooke launches run for Congress

October 13, 2021 GMT

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (AP) — Eau Claire businesswoman Rebecca Cooke announced a run for Congress in an open southwestern Wisconsin district on Wednesday, hoping to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Ron Kind.

Cooke is a member of the state’s economic development agency board, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, appointed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. She would be the first woman to represent the 3rd Congressional District should she win.

Cooke joins state Sen. Brad Pfaff, of Onalaska, and political newcomer Brett Knudsen on the Democratic side, setting up an Aug. 9 primary. Republican Derrick Van Orden, a former Navy SEAL who was defeated by Kind in 2020, is running again and has support from former President Donald Trump and Republican House leadership.

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The 3rd Congressional District covers a swath of counties along Wisconsin’s western border, including La Crosse and Eau Claire. Kind has held the seat for more than 24 years but announced in August he won’t seek reelection.

Cooke was raised on a dairy farm and says she understands the economic and social challenges facing small towns and rural communities. She owns and operates Red’s Mercantile and founded the Red Letter Grant in 2016, a nonprofit that supports female entrepreneurs.

The congressional district has been trending more conservative in recent elections and the race is expected to be one of the most competitive in 2022.