EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — Eau Claire businesswoman Rebecca Cooke on Wednesday announced a run for Congress in an open southwestern Wisconsin district, hoping to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Ron Kind.

Cooke is a member of the state’s economic development agency board, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., appointed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. She would be the first woman to represent the Third Congressional District should she win.

Cooke joins state Sen. Brad Pfaff, of Onalaska, and political newcomer Brett Knudsen on the Democratic side, setting up an Aug. 9 primary. Republican Derrick Van Orden, a former Navy SEAL who was narrowley defeated by Kind in 2020, is running again and has support from former President Donald Trump and Republican House of Representatives leadership.

The congressional district covers a swath of counties along Wisconsin’s western border, including Crawford and Grant counties. Kind has held the seat for more than 24 years but announced in August he won’t seek reelection.

Cooke was raised on a dairy farm and said she understands the economic and social challenges facing small towns and rural communities. She owns and operates Red’s Mercantile and founded the Red Letter Grant in 2016, a nonprofit that supports female entrepreneurs.

The congressional district has been trending more conservative in recent elections, and the race is expected to be one of the most competitive in 2022.

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