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Saturday, February 28, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 14.0° F  Light Snow
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Mark Pocan crushes opponents to win Democratic primary for Congress
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Mark Pocan, left, celebrates the primary win with his husband, Phil Frank.
Mark Pocan, left, celebrates the primary win with his husband, Phil Frank.
Credit:Joe Tarr

There were some influential people showing support for congressional candidate Mark Pocan at his election night party Tuesday night at the Brink Lounge.

Among the guests were state Sen. Mark Miller (D-Monona) and state Rep. Terese Berceau (D-Madison), who were both elected to the Legislature the same time Pocan was in 1998. Dane County Executive Joe Parisi was also there.

The strong support from top Democrats probably had a lot to do with Pocan's overwhelming victory against state Rep. Kelda Helen Roys and two other challengers. Unofficial results Tuesday night had Pocan leading with 72% of the vote over Roys' 22%. Matt Silverman had 4% and Dennis Hall 2%.

"Mark has long-term roots in this community," said Berceau, shortly before the race was called for Pocan. "So he was ahead of the game from the beginning."

Berceau criticized Roys during the race for running attack ads linking Pocan to Gov. Scott Walker's tax cuts for the wealthy, which Pocan voted for. Berceau said that many Democrats were undecided until the ads ran. "When she turned negative that was the turning point for them."

When Pocan took the stage for his victory speech, the crowd sang "Happy Birthday" -- the day also happened to be his 48th birthday. He said he knows he has "big shoes to fill" representing the district: "This is the seat of Fighting Bob La Follette. This is the seat of Bob Kastenmeier. And this is the seat of Tammy Baldwin."

The mention of Baldwin -- who decided to give up her seat to run for the U.S. Senate this year -- got the loudest cheers. Both Baldwin and Pocan are openly gay, and Baldwin has mentored Pocan since the two served together on the Dane County Board.

Pocan still faces a challenge in the November 6 general election from Republican candidate Chad Lee. But victory is all but assured in Wisconsin's overwhelmingly liberal 2nd congressional district. Still, as with most primary victories, Pocan rallied the troops for the campaign ahead.

"We still have a lot of work to do by November," he said. "At the top of the ticket, the choice couldn't be clearer." He also emphasized the importance of putting Baldwin in the Senate.

A few blocks away, Roys was holding her own election party at Madison's. Of the negative campaign ads, she said: "We ran the strongest possible campaign we could run. And we ran the campaign we thought would win."

She added, "there wasn't much coverage of the substance" of the campaign. "It's always hard to take on the status quo and the establishment."

Of her next step, Roys said, "I really haven't thought about it." But echoing Pocan, she said, "I want to work to make sure Tammy Baldwin is elected to the Senate."

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