Rep. Travis Tranel is not the wide-eyed and earnest 23-year-old who in 2008 campaigned to represent southwest Wisconsin in the state Assembly.

Eight years and three two-year terms later (he lost that initial campaign), Tranel might be a little more cynical about partisan politics and the ways of the world. But the Republican is every bit as passionate about serving his home district. Travis Tranel deserves another term.

While his Democratic opponent, Jesse Bennett, tries to paint a wide partisan gap between them, Tranel insists most of the issues facing southwest Wisconsin aren’t partisan concerns at all. The differences between rural and urban districts are far more likely to divide lawmakers. That’s a gap Tranel is trying to bridge by creating an alliance of rural legislators.

Bennett, a goat farmer and small businessman, is trying harder to make the case against Tranel than he is speaking up for his own qualifications — why he would make a better representative. Further, several of Bennett’s attacks are misfires.

When we visited with Bennett, he made it a point to cast Tranel as being beholden to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a national conservative coalition. But, except for the time he was waived into membership as a freshman lawmaker — in effect, a complimentary trial membership — Tranel has not been a member of ALEC. He showed us the ALEC letter to confirm it.

Meanwhile, we have reason to question Bennett’s judgment, as evidenced by some of his posts on social media. He was surprised to learn that his posts, including the one showing him at an event dressed up as rapper Flavor Flav — complete with skin-darkening makeup — could be accessed by the public. That and other posts suggest he lacks the maturity and common sense voters need in a lawmaker.

However, even if Bennett’s Facebook page were the model of decorum, he still wouldn’t make a better representative than Tranel.

Tranel knows the issues that matter to southwest Wisconsin residents, and he takes those concerns with him to Madison. As a Cuba City dairy farmer and father of five, Tranel has plenty of connections in his community and hears regularly from constituents. He knows how desperately important school funding is, and how important schools are to a town’s identity. He sees the value of economic development, and votes to see that rural areas get their share.

He’s not afraid to vote his principles, even when that means going against party leadership. For example, he voted against the previous two state budgets.

The TH Editorial Board endorsed Tranel in his unsuccessful bid for this seat in 2008, when he was just 23. We endorsed him again two years later when he defeated the incumbent. That passion and potential we saw in him as a young man is now backed with experience.

Wisconsin Assembly District 49 has a solid representative in Travis Tranel, and he deserves re-election.

Editorials reflect the consensus of the Telegraph Herald Editorial Board.

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