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Democrats Hope to Reclaim Wisconsin's First Congressional District

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Ryan Solen and Tom Breu, congressional candidates for Wisconsin's first district.
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Lake Effect's Mitch Teich talks with Wisconsin's first congressional district candidate Tom Breu.

There’s been a lot of attention given – both nationally and locally – to the race for Congress in Wisconsin’s first district. The seat is currently held by the Speaker of the House, Republican Paul Ryan, and much of the attention has been focused on Ryan's primary campaign against challenger Paul Nehlen. That race has been seen as a proxy in some ways for a broader divide among Republicans over Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

READ: Paul Ryan Faces Aggressive Challenge From Paul Nehlen for Wisconsin House Seat

There has been less attention given to Ryan’s would-be Democratic opponents, and the seat has been in GOP hands for more than 20 years. Ryan won re-election with 63 percent of the vote two years ago, but only 55 percent in 2012. There are currently two new politicians vying for the spot on the Democratic ticket.

Democratic candidate Ryan Solen is from Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin. He’s a computer security analyst at SC Johnson, and an Iraq war veteran. He says his time in the army shaped his political views. 

"I think the way it influences me the most is that people all generally have the same motivation," Solen says. "I've really enjoyed getting to know all different walks of life and points of view. I've had great conversations with Republicans as well. I think a majority of people are interested in seeing the country drive."

Tom Breu, a plumbing engineer from Janesville, is the other Democrat vying for the nomination. Like Solen, Breu is a newcomer to politics. His political ambition was sparked after watching Paul Ryan debate economist Dean Baker on privatizing social security.

"I remember walking back to the car afterwards thinking 'How could Paul Ryan have been elected with such an obviously narrow focus, very privileged and unaware of the challenges faced by the many?'" he says.