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Ron Johnson, Russ Feingold mashup (copy)

Former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, right, will challenge Republican Sen. Ron Johnson for the seat he lost in 2010.

This week was all about women in the race between Republican Sen. Ron Johnson and Democratic former Sen. Russ Feingold.

Feingold, who is challenging Johnson for the seat he lost in 2010, spent the week visiting women-owned businesses and challenging Johnson's record on gender equality with a fundraising plea and a new online ad.

Johnson enlisted his daughter, Carey, to push back on Feingold's narrative in a video released Friday.

"From consistently voting against pay equity legislation to his efforts to defund access to healthcare for women who need it the most, Sen. Johnson’s spent his career in Washington voting against Wisconsin women and their families," said Feingold spokeswoman Amelia Penniman.

Feingold, Penniman said, would "make sure Wisconsin women and their families have every opportunity to succeed, through achieving pay equity, raising the minimum wage, and passing paid family leave legislation."

In a digital ad launched Thursday, Feingold's campaign went after Johnson for voting five times against the Paycheck Fairness Act, a proposal that would ban employers from penalizing workers who ask about or disclose their wages and would impose harsher penalties for gender-based pay discrimination. The bill would also require businesses to provide business justifications for any gender-based pay gaps.

The ad highlights Johnson's assessment that the legislation would "do more harm than good."

Johnson said that in a press release issued after a vote on the bill in April 2014.

"I believe in equal pay for equal work, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation," Johnson said at the time. "Other than its utility as a political wedge, the Paycheck Fairness Act will not further that goal and will do more harm than good. That is why I could not support it."

Johnson said the proposal was a "cynical political exercise" that "would severely hamper merit-based pay systems and cause workplace conflict."

The senator did support a Republican alternative to the proposal, which included the retaliation provisions but lacked data-tracking requirements and measures to help women sue for back pay that were included in the Democratic bill.

Feingold, while in office, voted for the Paycheck Fairness Act when it was initially proposed. He also voted for its precursor, which was passed: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which expanded the ability for victims of wage discrimination to sue.

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In a video released Friday, Johnson's daughter, Carey, pushed back on the Feingold campaign's criticisms.

"I find it offensive that Sen. Feingold would resort to misleading attacks against my dad," she said. "My dad has always supported me in my career as a nurse, and of course he supports women getting paid equally for the same work ... My dad is working hard to make sure that everyone in Wisconsin — men and women — has the opportunity to succeed."

Feingold also sought to draw a line between his and Johnson's positions regarding paid time off to take care of a sick family member or new child or to recover from an illness.

The former senator has called for a "broad expansion" of the Family Medical Leave Act, and has said he would like to see the federal law work with expansions at the state level, as well.

Feingold supported the original FMLA in 1993, which allows unpaid time off for reasons including the birth or adoption of a child, caring for a family member and recovering from illness. 

Johnson voted in March 2015 to support a proposal that would establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund for legislation to allow employees to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave. Both Johnson and Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey switched their votes to yes, both having said their initial "no" votes were mistakes. 

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Jessie Opoien covers state government and politics for the Capital Times. She joined the Cap Times in 2013 and has also covered Madison life, race relations, culture and music. She has also covered education and politics for the Oshkosh Northwestern.