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Election Preview: Wisconsin 4th Congressional District

Democratic incumbent Gwen Moore faces two challengers in Tuesday's election.

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore and her Republican opponent Dan Sebring freely admit their philosophies are polar opposites of one another.

Moore is a proud Democrat who describes her accomplishments as multifold: Being a champion for vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, single mothers, the poor and children; defending against what she sees as U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s excesses on the House Budget Committee; and working to protect the country against financial abuses.

“We put together some of the toughest language to try to keep the worst abuses of the financial crisis from occurring again,” she said. “As for the Budget Committee, I have really played a lot of defense on the Budget Committee. Paul Ryan’s budgets have continued to be more and more unfriendly to middle class people and even to poor people.”

Of Sebring, who has run twice against Moore before, she says: “I imagine Dan Sebring is another one of them, vilifying the half of Americans at or below the poverty levels. I have helped stop some bad stuff standing up for these folk, and what we don’t need is to let more people of that ilk run the country.”

By them, she was referring to Republicans.

Before being elected to Congress, Moore was a Wisconsin state representative, state senator and civic activist. Moore was the first African-American elected to Congress in Wisconsin and the second woman.

For Sebring, the focus is jobs

For his part, Sebring, who has run a local car repair business in Milwaukee for years, contends:

“I think the answer is pretty simple. When I look at the unemployment rate in the City of Milwaukee, her answer to everything seems to be some kind of jobs program. But it’s for jobs that don’t exist, such as building green homes, and the only jobs she is for creating are for people running the job training programs. The biggest thing has got to be jobs, and she has failed miserably at that front. We need to get those job training programs in the hands of the businesses already creating jobs and give tax incentives for job training programs for jobs that already exist.”

For example, he said that local manufacturers need welders but can’t find enough qualified people. “We could help them with tax incentives, and they could train the welders and put people to work," Sebring said.

Sebring believes that Moore has “supported everything that Obama has put forth. Obamacare has got to be the second biggest problem we’re going to be facing. As a business owner, I can’t even consider hiring anyone with Obamacare on the horizon keeping me from hiring. Everyone’s in a holding pattern, waiting to see what’s going to happen. If the president is re-elected, a lot of people are not going to be expanding their business.”

Sebring said he was inspired to become politically active when Milwaukee tried to pass a handgun ban.

"That’s when my eyes opened, and I started paying attention to what’s going on here," he said.

It helped that he had a number of customers who were “sitting politicians” or related to them, such as a relative of Scott Walker’s wife, a state representative, and others. He decided to have a Christmas party at his shop and “invited every local politician that I could. It kind of progressed from there.”

But Sebring also knows what it means to face hardships. Sebring has a colorful life story, having served in the Navy but also ending up homeless and sleeping in his car for a time during an economic recession in the 1980s. He has held jobs ranging from volunteer firefighter to disc jockey. In the Navy, he served on the Chief of Naval Operations Intelligence staff at the Pentagon.

Moore says her goal is 'serving the people'

However, Moore said she has brought money back to the district that has helped with job creation and training.

“Serving the people in Congress or any legislative body is a stewardship because people are busy living own lives, whether they’re a doctor, nurse, housewife, or firefighter, they rely on you to watch out for their best interests,” she said.  “I am a people-oriented person; I would start out with that.”

Moore said she is co-chair of the Congressional caucus on women’s issues and also introduced legislation to help reunify children with parents “before they get into foster care, which is a pipeline to jail,” and she said she has fought for environmental protections. She was first elected to Congress with Barack Obama in 2004, she said, laughing, “but he got off the beaten path.”

“We have an entirely different philosophy,” she said of Sebring.

Independent Robert Raymond, a member of the Constitution Party and a law firm analyst from Shorewood, also is on the ballot. He does not have a campaign website and could not be reached for comment. He’s run unsuccessfully multiple times for U.S. House and Senate. According to Open Secrets.org, he has raised no money in the race.

District has a new look

The 4th Congressional District covers the City of Milwaukee, and most of Milwaukee County, including Shorewood, Fox Point, Bayside and Whitefish Bay. Historically, the district has been the most Democratic congressional district in Wisconsin.

Members of Congress serve two-year terms and earn $174,000 annually.

Candidate profiles

  • Democrat Gwen Moore (incumbent)
  • Republican Dan Sebring
  • Independent Robert Raymond

See more of Patch's complete coverage of the 4th Congressional District.

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