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Former Small Business Owner Rob Zerban Runs for Paul Ryan's Seat

McClatchy-Tribune, Getty Images

First District Congressman Paul Ryan will face one of two Democrats vying for his seat next year as the Republican seeks election to a ninth term in Congress.

Rob Zerban of Kenosha, will square off in the Democratic primary against Amar Kaleka, a Milwaukee native and son of the slain leader of the Oak Creek Sikh temple.

Zerban ran in 2012 against Ryan. Though he lost, the margin was the narrowest since Ryan was first elected to Congress. Zerban says Ryan won with less than 55% of the vote and even lost in his hometown, Janesville.

“If we can achieve half of that again in 2014, then we can close that gap and win this race,” Zerban says.

A former small business owner, Zerban sold his last company in 2008 and went into public service. He did community canvassing for the Great Lakes Basin Compact, served on the board of directors for the League of Conservation Voters, and was elected to the Kenosha County Board of Supervisors.

His background as a small business owner has informed Zerban's positive view of the Affordable Care Act. Before health care reform was passed and while he was still a business owner, Zerban bought a Blue Cross Blue Shield HMO PPO Executive Plan Insurance, a healthcare package that he says benefited his employees.

“It was one of my most expensive benefits and I felt that it was so important that I did the best I could,” he says. “I had 90% of my employees sign up for it. I subsidized it by 70% so that they could afford it.”

Zerban is now part of the Wisconsin Business Alliance, a statewide organization that educates small businesses on the ACA and how it can help them.

Zerban says it is time to get Washington insiders out of Congress and put people from Main Street America into power.

“I think that you need to replace career politicians, like Paul Ryan, with people who have experience like small business owners, that I was, who know that people are relying on the government to work in a way that helps create jobs, helps get the economy moving, instead of being obstructionists,” Zerban says.

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