Matt Silverman says all the problems this country faces can be boiled down to one issue: the corrupting influence of money in politics.
"The average congressman spends two to three hours a day on the phone asking for money," Silverman says, citing a This American Life episode, "Take the Money and Run for Office." "There's so much anger and distrust of government. People are looking for something different."
Silverman is trying to change that by running for Congress. He's finding unique ways to get out his message, such as a 543-mile walk around the district, from May 13 to June 26, introducing himself to voters.
He's not accepting PAC donations. "And I don't spend any time on the phone begging for money," he adds.
An Iraq War veteran, Silverman says his military service prompted his run for office. "I really loved my time in the Army because I felt I was giving more than I was taking back."
Why not start by running for local office? "It's an open seat," he responds. "I look at the Congress we have today, and it's clear that it's incapable of solving the problems we have today."
Silverman supports public financing for all elections. And he would radically change the tax code, eliminating all deductions and exemptions, lowering rates for every income bracket, but adding higher brackets at the $1 million, $5 million and $10 million levels (the current highest tax bracket is $388,000). He would also tax capital gains as income and eliminate the corporate income tax.
Silverman knows he's at a disadvantage financially. His June 30 filing shows him having raised $16,900, compared to challengers Mark Pocan ($734,000) and Kelda Helen Roys ($392,000). But he also trusts people to vote wisely.
"If people want to change the government they have, they have to vote in the primary."
Dennis Hall doesn't care much for politicians. Although he admires a few, such as Russ Feingold, he uses the phrase "career politician" with contempt.
"The older I get, the less tolerant I get of the greed and the gridlock and really the gross malfeasance of Congress," Hall says. "If you vote for a career politician, don't expect Washington to change.
"I'm not a career politician," he adds. "I'll be a citizen politician."
Hall has promised to serve no more than four terms in Congress. "I wanted to do two terms but people said, 'No, you can't do that, you need to get your feet wet,'" he says. "Nobody can say 'I'm going to hit the floor running [in Congress].'"
His desire to reform Congress, and the urging of many friends, prompted his campaign. What separates him from the other candidates, he says, is his vast experience.
He was a combat veteran in Vietnam, worked on a General Motors assembly line for seven years and served as the Janesville City Council president. He was one of the first businessmen on the ground in Kuwait after the United States liberated it from Iraq in 1991, helping Wisconsin companies make connections there. He has since gone on to perform a similar role in Iraq. Hall even did a stint as a lobbyist, working for the Wisconsin Counties Association.
"It was for the property taxpayers that I was working, not some corporation that wanted to get their way. I was very proud of that."
If elected, Hall will try to reduce the deficit and stop partisan bickering, which he says cripples Congress.
"I'm willing to reach out and work with both sides of the aisle," he says. "Mark [Pocan] and Kelda [Helen Roys] didn't go to [Gov. Walker's] brat summit, when the rest of the Democratic leadership did go. I think that speaks volumes to how they're going to play in Washington, or not play."