Dems lining up to challenge Duffy

Likely candidates include the music producer for Bon Iver, the former CEO of Marshfield Clinic, and north woods attorney


Engebretson, Frenette and Ewert

Polk County attorney Margaret Engebretson announced her candidacy Monday for the 7th Congressional District seat now held by Republican Sean Duffy of Wausau. Likely to join her—and see a Democratic primary Aug. 14—are physician and former Marshfield Clinic CEO Brian Ewert, and Eau Claire-area music producer Kyle Frenette, both of whom are expected to announce their candidacy officially by the end of the month.

The diversity of the candidates excites Marathon County Democratic Party Chair Nancy Stencil. “They each have something to offer and there’s a wide age-range too,” Stencil says. “It’s a solid group so far.”

Engebretson, a 46-year-old attorney in Balsam Lake, says her campaign’s main focuses will include national security, healthcare and rural economic development. The 24-year Navy veteran says Duffy has been unresponsive and out-of-touch with the issues facing 7th District residents. “We must start investing in our people by pursuing policies that promote true sustainable growth in our economy, unity within our society and provides long-term stability,” Engebretson says.

Frenette and Ewert have similar goals for their potential campaigns. Frenette, a 30-year-old Chetek resident and Chippewa Falls native, has managed the award-winning Eau Claire-based band Bon Iver for the last 10 years and owns his own record label. He helped create the acclaimed music festival Eaux Claires, which has gained national media attention from outlets such as the New York Times and Rolling Stone.

Frenette is looking to jump into politics because he thinks Duffy isn’t providing leadership in Washington D.C., and because he believes the country needs to embrace progressive values such as healthcare for all, job creation, and supporting public schools.

Ewert, 59, has held several leadership positions for Marshfield Clinic and currently works as a kidney specialist. He says the backbones of strong communities are healthcare, education, and infrastructure and he plans to focus his campaign on those topics. Ewert says he also would focus on campaign finance reform, especially the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which relaxed restrictions on corporate donations to political campaigns. “Over the last eight years since Citizens United, we’ve seen a true perversion of the one-person, one-vote principle,” Ewert says.

Sean Duffy has held the 7th Congressional seat since 2010. The filing deadline for congressional candidates is June 1.