The first question I asked is why she chose to enter the race. She replied that she was "frustrated that I had a representative that votes in favor of campaign donors over constituents." She said that working people in the district were not being represented and did not have a voice in Congress.
She also stated that she did felt it was wrong that Duffy would avoid his constituents and talk down to people who would question or disagree with him. She said that this was not the way elected officials on any level of government should treat their constituents.
Westlund is correct on this, as it has been evidenced on video repeatedly.
As an example of how out of touch Duffy is with the district, she pointed out that he voted to cut food stamps even though 1 in 4 children in the district rely on them.
She is correct on this as well. Duffy himself expressed surprise at how many people in the district are struggling, even as he did nothing to help them with unemployment compensation.
I asked Westlund what issues were going to be primary for her campaign.
She said that she wanted to:
- Raise the minimum wage;
- Expand the Affordable Care Act to include things like a public option and the ability to negotiate on drug prices;
- Securing and expanding Social Security and Medicare; and
- Addressing student load rates.
Regarding the student loan rates, Westlund pointed out that it was just crazy that the banks who crashed the economy get better rates than students.
Westlund said that she is also in strong opposition to the Penokee iron mine. She said that the districts GOP have already labeled her as being against jobs because of this, but she pointed out that the mine proponents are the ones that are willing to sacrifice jobs for the interests of an out of state company. She said that many of the jobs up there deal with tourism, fishing and other outdoor activities. She said that the mine presents too great of a risk to the environment and all of the jobs that rely on the pristine water, land and air which attracts so many people and businesses.
Westlund added one thing that stood out to me and would have won me over if I wasn't already leaning in her support.
She said that the corporatization of our government - by either party - is just wrong. She added that people need to take responsibility for government, but they can't do that when they are working two or three jobs just to make ends meet, keep a roof over their head and food on their table.
I asked Westlund what kind of reception she was getting from the people. She told me that she was overwhelmed by the amount of support she is receiving. She said that she is getting support from unexpected areas.
On a humorous note, she pointed out that her parents, who are Republican, will be voting for a Democrat for the very first time.
She told me that she has already received the endorsement from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, the same group who helped Elizabeth Warren into office.
I should also point out that Jim Miller, the head of the GOP for that district, knows that Duffy is so vulnerable that at the first hint that Westlund was running, bought up all the domain names he could think of and set up a fake website. From what I've heard, it has not been received very well. I tried to Google the domains, but did not find any active.
Westlund has been married for four and a half years and has no children, but is very close to her niece and nephew.
She currently holds the office of City Councilor in Ashland. She also is experienced as a small business women, helping a local food cooperative to promote local markets and sustainability.
She has a degree in conflict resolution from Northland College, which should prove to be invaluable in Washington, D.C. Westlund is also an alumna of Emerge Wisconsin and Leadership Wisconsin, both programs that train future leaders and will be useful in getting herself to Washington.
In summary, I think that Westlund is a wonderful candidate and is taking all the right steps in these early stages of her campaign. She is showing a strong connection to the people in the 7th CD. She is taking the very important step of reaching out and wanting to hear what the people think and feel instead of telling them what they should think and feel. She has her priorities straight and is genuine in her approach.
In light of her considerable knowledge of the issues that are most important to her constituents, her willingness to reach out and find viable solutions and her emphasis on people over corporate special interests, I am proud to endorse Kelly Westlund for Congress and hope that you will join me in doing so.
To learn more about Westlund, please visit her website and her Facebook page. You can show your support for Westlund by making a donation and by signing up as an endorser on the PCCC page.
ADDENDUM: Just to be careful, I confirmed with Westlund that there is nothing on the Intertubes that she might be embarrassed by. That is something that Duffy cannot say.