Janesville63.5°

Kolste 'walks' to win in 44th

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Jim Leute
August 15, 2012

— Deb Kolste said she knocked on about 11,000 doors in an effort to advance out of a Democratic primary election in the 44th Assembly District.

With a victory Tuesday, Kolste said she has more homes to hit between now and the general election Nov. 6.

With 42 percent of the vote, Kolste advanced out of the four-person primary and will now face incumbent Rep. Joe Knilans, R-Janesville.

The district includes most of Janesville.

"I walked and I walked and I walked," said the 59-year-old Kolste, who has a lengthy record of community involvement and service, including three terms on the Janesville School Board. "I think people really appreciated that I stopped to talk to them."

In defeating fellow Democrats Kevin Murray, Yuri Rashkin and Sam Liebert, Kolste said she also believes she had an advantage in gender, as the district has never elected a female representative.

All four candidates are well known in the community.

In addition to the school board, Kolste has been active in school parent-teacher organizations, the director of the mock drunk driving program at Craig High School, a board member of Rock Futbol soccer league, chairperson of children's hospital tours, president of Mercy Volunteers, a fundraiser for the Janesville Literacy Connection, a board member of the YMCA of Northern Rock County and a volunteer at HealthNet of Rock County.

In addition, she has experience in business, agriculture and health care.

Kolste said her campaign quickly would switch gears for the general election.

She noted that she and the others in the Democratic primary were campaigning on many of the same issues, most notably in opposition to the Republican budget, its cuts to education and in support of the Affordable Health Care Act.

"In a primary like this, it's awfully difficult to distinguish yourself from the other candidates," she said. "In the general election, there were will be stark philosophical and policy differences.

"I also would say that the quality of people I ran against in the primary was impressive. They were all nice guys, and it was a great way to start my first political race at this level."

Kolste said she's met Knilans a couple of times but doesn't really know him. Her campaign, she said, will be more against the Republican establishment than it will be a personal campaign against Knilans.

In the Democratic primary in 44th District, nearly 4,600 voters went to the polls Tuesday.

Two years ago, Knilans emerged from a four-person Republican primary in which 3,084 people voted.

Knilans went on to stage what was arguably the biggest upset in state legislative races when he defeated Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan in the general election.

He, too, attributed those victories to knocking on doors, which he was doing again Tuesday.

"I'm looking forward to the November election," Knilans said. "We'll have the opportunity to discuss the difference between Deb and I.

"My opponent and I are on opposite sides of many issues, and it will be interesting to have those discussions and see how things shake out."

Kolste and Knilans both expect a much larger turnout in November.

"Of course there will be the presidential election, and I suspect there will be a lot of interest with Paul Ryan on the ticket," Knilans said.



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