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Ousted agriculture secretary Brad Pfaff running for state Senate
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Ousted agriculture secretary Brad Pfaff running for state Senate

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Senate Republicans who fired the state’s agriculture secretary, Brad Pfaff, may be seeing a whole lot more of him.

Pfaff, who served as Gov. Tony Evers’ secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection until being abruptly ousted in November, said on Monday he will run for the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat being vacated by Democratic Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse.

A win by Pfaff, from Onalaska, in the competitive district would shore up the party’s numbers in the Republican-controlled chamber, although Republicans are expected to keep majorities in both the Senate and Assembly. Wisconsin remains a contested battleground in the race for president. Fallout from the response to the novel coronavirus, however, could confuse the political calculus.

Pfaff’s firing highlighted the raw political divisions between parties that have fractured the state in recent years. Pfaff was fired in part due to open disagreements with Republican lawmakers over delayed funding for a farmer suicide-prevention program. Democrats said the firing would prevent cabinet secretaries from being able to freely criticize the Legislature, while Republicans said Democrats had politicized the issue.

In his campaign announcement, Pfaff said lawmakers need to pull together amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

“Growing up on a farm here in La Crosse County taught me that when times are tough, you pull together with your neighbors and you get the job done,” Pfaff said. “These tough times demand real change, not more of the same. I’m running to make sure Wisconsin’s Legislature starts doing its job and stops taking us down the wrong road.”

Already running for the seat are Republican Dan Kapanke and Democrat Paul Michael Weber.

Before joining the Evers administration in 2019, Pfaff worked on the implementation of conservation, farm loan and federal crop assistance programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency. He also worked on agriculture policy for former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl and U.S. Rep. Ron Kind.

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