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Democratic supporters and candidates came out for the opening of the Juneau County Democrat headquarters at 215 East State Street in Mauston May 19. The event was held in the building’s spacious ballroom.

Among the attendees was U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, who gave a speech and offered encouragement to other Democratic candidates heading into the 2018 midterm elections.

Baldwin was elected to the Senate in 2012, securing about 51.5 percent of the vote over Republican candidate and former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson’s 45.9 percent.

“I think this may be the most amazing county party headquarters I’ve seen in a long long time,” Baldwin said. “If you think about a room like this, with all of you, if you commit to fill out one sheet of nomination papers for candidates, think of that multiplied by all the people volunteering this weekend… Think about the power of that canvas and engaging with people in our democratic process. That is amazing. And it’s because of you.”

The event was part of the statewide Democratic Weekend of Action, a multi-day series of events designed to energize Democratic voters and volunteers.

Art Shrader, who is running as a Democrat to represent the 50th Assembly District spoke at the event. The seat was formerly occupied by Ed Brooks for 10 years, but with the news of Brooks’ decision not to run for reelection, the Wonewoc-based Organic Farmer Tony Kurtz has entered the race as a Republican.

“I’m here to represent you,” Shrader said of his candidacy for the Assembly.

Shrader railed against the Foxconn deal during his speech.

“There are times when it’s completely appropriate to have a public private partnership,” Shrader said. “(but) money has been taken out of our local roads to help with the roads going to Foxconn.”

Kriss Marion, who is challenging Republican State Senator Howard Marklein for his District 17 seat also spoke at the event.

“I went on a rough roads tour, which was in La Crosse county earlier in the week,” Marion said. “(We) bumped along on a bus and basically saw how terrible our roads are and listened to our local officials talk about how they just cannot go on with how funding is. That made me infuriated.”

Marion hopes to focus on strengthening local control for rural areas. “I really believe in our rural communities, and I really think it’s time to direct our attention back,” Marion said. “That is where my heart lies.”

Juneau County Democrats Chairperson Stephen Weiser publicly thanked everyone who helped make the event happen.

“We’re all here with one goal in mind,” Weiser said. “And that is to reelect Tammy Baldwin, elect Democratic candidates including Art Shrader and Kriss Marion and elect a Democratic governor for the State of Wisconsin.”

State Superintendent and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers also attended the event. Nomination papers for various Democratic candidates were available for attendees to sign.

Baldwin said she was particularly proud of her push with Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine for a bill bolstering resources offered to family caregivers.

“She and I have been working for years to pass something called the Raise Family Caregivers Act,” Baldwin said. The bill aims to provide support to families caring for loved ones who are ill or disabled. It was passed in the Senate and signed into law by President Trump in January.

Although she is pleased with the bill being passed, Baldwin feels there is more work to be done on public health.

“I’m trying to get the federal government to continue stepping up,” Baldwin said of the opioid crisis. “There has been a lot of increased funding but it’s not enough to turn the corner and that’s what we have to do now. The investment we need to make is in prevention and treatment resources.”

Baldwin recently opened up about her own family’s experience with addiction.

“My mother struggled with mental illness and prescription drug addiction and chronic pain,” Baldwin said. “It was episodic but lifelong, and so I know how hard it is because I’ve been there.”

Since publicly speaking about her family’s struggles, Baldwin has received letters from others who have been impacted by addiction and heard their stories.

Heading in to her first election as an incumbent senator, Baldwin said she is focusing on issues important to Wisconsinites, including healthcare, education and job security.

“These are the things that Wisconsinites are focused on, and yet it doesn’t seem to be the focus in Washington D.C. right now,” Baldwin said. “I think people understand their need to be involved. And I think that’s born out by two or three times the number of people here than we were anticipating.”

Baldwin will face off against against a Republican challenger in November. The nominee will be either State Senator Leah Vukmir or former Marine Kevin Nicholson, who currently are vying for the opportunity to be the GOP candidate in the Nov. 6. general election.

You can reach Jake Ekdahl on Twitter @JakeaEkdahl