Zerban mounts second challenge to Ryan
KENOSHA — Rob Zerban, the Democrat who lost to U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan by 12 percentage points in last year's election, said Thursday he'll try again in 2014 to unseat the eight-term Republican congressman.
Zerban has spent the last few months meeting with community groups across southeastern Wisconsin, and said wherever he went voters encouraged him to take another shot at representing the 1st Congressional District.
"For a long time (voters) had this image of (Ryan) as this nice guy from next door and they didn't pay attention to his partisan votes in D.C. And he'd come back in the district and talk a very moderate game. But he's been anything but," Zerban said. "And I think a lot of the people in the 1st District have started to see his true colors."
Ryan has for years been seen as a rising star in the Republican Party. He was Mitt Romney's vice presidential candidate during the 2012 elections and gained prominence, as chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee, after drawing up an austere budget blueprint that called for reshaping Medicare and keeping tax breaks that were set to expire.
Zerban said Ryan's budget, which wasn't popular with Democrats, was especially hurtful because it targeted programs for the poor. Some were the same programs that Zerban, 45, said his family relied on when he was young.
He recalled his single mother qualifying for food stamps but being too embarrassed to use them at a grocery store where people might know her. He described having to get a token from his school principal every day to redeem for a free lunch. And he recalled wearing hand-me-down jeans that were so threadbare that his mother had to sew patches over the holes.
"Seeing the budget and what (Ryan) was doing was really the impetus for me really getting involved in the race," Zerban said.