Duffy challenger kicks off campaign, wants to see Affordable Care Act expandedSubmitted: 12/10/2013

Ben Meyer
Executive Producer

WAUSAU - In the 2012 elections, the campaign for Rep. Sean Duffy's 7th congressional district seat become the most expensive congressional race in Wisconsin history.

Duffy cruised to a win over Democratic challenger Pat Kreitlow.

Heading into 2014, Duffy has a new challenger, and she opened her campaign with a punch.

"Too many people feel that Sean Duffy isn't willing to listen to our concerns, to work on our behalf, or to vote in a way that represents our best interests," said Ashland Democrat Kelly Westlund.

Westlund came out swinging on the first day of her bid to unseat Republican Congressman Sean Duffy Tuesday in Wausau.

"Unlike Sean Duffy, I plan to do more than ask for your vote. I plan to earn it," she told supporters.

Westlund slammed Duffy time and time again to open her campaign.

"I need to make sure I can draw the contrasts and show people how I'm different from Sean Duffy. But I think that it's not necessarily anti-Sean Duffy to tell the truth and say that he says one thing in the district and votes another way when he gets back to Washington, D.C.," she told reporters after the event.

If she's elected, Westlund will make a huge political jump.

She currently serves on the Ashland City Council.

By contrast, the sprawling 7th Congressional District covers roughly the
northern third of Wisconsin.

While attacking Duffy for his actions in office, she said she will wait until she's heard from more people in northern Wisconsin roundtable events to form her own specific policy ideas.

"Those are going to help me solidify some policy positions, and at that point, I'll be able to present some positive alternatives to what Sean Duffy has to offer," Westlund said.

But she took a strong stand Tuesday on a fairly controversial issue - the Affordable Care Act.

"I'd like to see it expanded. I'd like to see it expanded, I'd like to see negotiation over drug prices, I would like to see a public option, frankly," she said.

Westlund said Tuesday she's most interested in presenting the positive vision for the future of the congressional district during her campaign.

But she started by targeting Duffy, and the Republican Party of Wisconsin labeled her Tuesday as "nothing more than a blank check for Barack Obama and a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi's backward agenda."

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PARK FALLS - Many people in the Northwoods go to church on Sunday mornings, and for some of them it may be begrudgingly.

But there are plenty of people, often elderly or sick, who want to go to church but have a hard time doing so.

Peace Lutheran Church in Park Falls wanted to change that. Since May, they've been undergoing some construction. On Sunday, the church had a dedication ceremony for a special new addition—an elevator.

Now people like 100-year-old Ruth Olson can worship with greater ease.

Before the elevator, Olson said she would get to church by literally pulling herself up the stairs using the railing.

Olson's story is like many. As the older population grows, church buildings don't evolve with them. The buildings are often old and sometimes lack accomodating features for the elderly or disabled, and takes money to update the buildings.

"We have churches where the people are getting older and it's very hard for people to get around," said Rev. Dwayne Lueck, the district president for the North Wisconsin District Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod.

Some parishoners couldn't do what Ruth used to do, and so they would have to worship at a service held across the street in the day care center, instead of in the beautiful church.

"Now all the services can be over here," said Rev. Dale Heinlein, the pastor of Peace Lutheran.

The congregation at Peace Lutheran believed in an elevator, so they paid for it.

"We been talking and planning this for...a long time," said Dick Ross, president of the congregation. "Pretty hard for some of the people, and I think you saw them, pretty hard for some of the people to worship here, so it was time."

"You can see it in their eyes more than anything when they know they have access and when they come up here and just enter the building and no steps, it's a great thing," said Buzz Peters, a parishoner who helped design the new elevator and space.

"We can finally have access for everybody to get into the worship facility, free access, that's what this is all about," Heinlein said. 

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Minocqua kicked off its' Christmas celebrations Saturday.

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MADISON - New state data show that nearly 15,000 Wisconsin residents lost access to food stamps in the first three months of a new law that requires some recipients to seek jobs.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports (http://bit.ly/1Ple8j5 ) it obtained the data from the Department of Human Services under the state open records law.

The rule took effect in April for participants in the state's food stamp program, FoodShare. It requires able-bodied adults without children living at home to work at least 80 hours a month or look for work to stay in the program.

The DHS data show about 25 percent of the 60,000 recipients eligible to work were dropped from the program between July and September. But about 4,500 found work through a new job training program for FoodShare recipients.

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And it wouldn't be complete without that perfect Christmas tree.

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MADISON - Two Republican legislators have created a bill that would shift federal road dollars from local projects to major state projects. Opponents say the bill is a backdoor attempt to make sure federal prevailing wage requirements don't apply to local projects.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Duey Stroebel and Rep. Rob Brooks would transfer $47 million in federal funding from local projects to state projects and move $47 million in state dollars from state projects to local ones.

Stroebel says the swap would save money by removing local projects from burdensome federal regulations.

He has been a vocal advocate for doing away with prevailing wage statutes, which require minimum salaries for workers on government-funded construction projects.

Spokeswomen for GOP legislative leaders didn't respond to inquiries about the bill's chances.

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MOUNT HOREB - A southern Wisconsin school district has cancelled plans for elementary school students to read a children's book about a transgender girl after a group threatened to sue.

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