Mark Pocan and Kelda Helen Roys mashup

State Reps. Mark Pocan and Kelda Helen Roys

State Journal archives

Two well-known state Democratic lawmakers from Madison announced Wednesday they would run for the soon-to-be-vacant congressional seat held by Tammy Baldwin.

State Reps. Kelda Helen Roys and Mark Pocan are the first two candidates to officially enter the race to replace Baldwin, a six-term Democratic congresswoman who on Tuesday announced her bid for the U.S. Senate. Democratic U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl is stepping down from office in 2012.

Roys and Pocan took different approaches to their announcements.

Roys announced in a low-key email sent to reporters about an hour before Pocan kicked off a press conference attended by more than 50 supporters, with TV cameras, campaign signs and a list of some 250 public officials who have endorsed his candidacy. Roys said she would follow up with events around the 2nd Congressional District.

Both lawmakers struck similar themes in their messages: protecting Wisconsin’s middle-class families, re-energizing the Democratic Party, cooperation without capitulation.

“I want Democratic politicians to stand up for Democratic values, and govern with the courage of our convictions. And I think we need that in Congress now more than ever,” Roys said.

Roys, a two-term Assembly member and attorney, formerly served as executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin. The 32-year-old lawmaker said there is a “vacuum in the next generation of progressive leaders in Washington, D.C.”

Pocan hammered the same message during the news conference in front of his business, Budget Signs & Specialties. Pocan said he wanted to go to Washington to fight back against the “tea party faction that has taken over the Republican Party.”

“When we can, we should work together,” he said. “But we must understand the difference between compromise and capitulation.”

Pocan, 47, was first elected to the Assembly in 1998. He is widely considered to be one of the Democrats’ top strategists at the state Capitol.

The current economic climate will color the race in 2012. Both Roys and Pocan focused a considerable amount of their announcements on the need for jobs.

Pocan pointed out his 23 years of running a small business and said that the ability for normal people to get a good job or start a business is “increasingly out of reach.”

And Roys said addressing the lack of well-paying jobs is “no question the most pressing issue facing our state and our nation.”

State Sen. Jon Erpenbach also is interested in running for Baldwin’s seat. He told the State Journal on Wednesday he plans to make an announcement about whether he’s getting in the race “in the next few days or early next week.”