LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - The Democratic and Republican candidates for Wisconsin's 3rd Congressional District met in a debate Wednesday afternoon.
Incumbent Democratic Congressman Ron Kind was first elected in 1996 to the seat and has won re-election since then.
Republican challenger Derrick Van Orden is a retired Navy SEAL who currently runs a small hobby farm in Hager City.
The hour-long debate covered a number of issues from trade, the USMCA, health care, and dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
With President Trump's stop in West Salem on Tuesday and former Vice President Joe Biden's planned visit for Friday, both are coming during record high COVID-19 infection rates in the state. News 19 asked both Kind and Van Orden about their message to these political candidates who are continuing to visit.
Kind responded by calling Trump's visit disrespectful but did not address Biden's planned visit.
"With the president coming to West Salem and encourage another large group rally with no social distancing and too many people not wearing face masks, that was so disrespectful to our front line healthcare workers," said Kind. "They are doing their best to protect people right now."
Van Orden responded to Kind's comments with an anecdote on experiences with fallen soldiers who fought to defend freedom in the U.S.
"You never sat with the Drevnick's right here in River Falls on Gold Star Mother's Day and look them in their tear-filled eyes and tell them you loved them for the sacrifice of their son Daniel Drevnick," said Van Orden. "This is freedom, Ron, and I will not give this up lightly, so I appreciate all of this stuff. We're working on vaccine vigorously. We're trying to get this done, but this freedom cannot be sold lightly, and I cannot help you understand that."
Other topics included agriculture, clean energy, the national debt, and infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave U.S. infrastructure a D+ back in 2017 in their report. When asked about what Congress should prioritize, Van Orden advocated for recruiting more people into the trades to build a workforce.
"I'm not going to sign on to any infrastructure bill at all that does not have provisions to increase our funding for trade schools," said Van Orden. "We've got to let younger people understand that working with your hands is honorable, building things is honorable, taking care of your family is honorable."
Kind pointed out access to broadband which has come to the forefront during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This virus has highlighted the digital divide like nothing before and the education and economic inequalities that come from that digital divide..." said Kind. "This is going to be crucial to for the survival of our rural communities, our family farmers, the telemedicine, the telework that's being revolutionized because of this pandemic."
The 3rd Congressional District covers a large portion of western Wisconsin encompassing Adams, Buffalo, Crawford, Dunn, Eau Claire, Grant, La Crosse, Pepin, Pierce, Portage, Trempealeau, and Vernon counties. Parts of several other counties including Chippewa, Jackson, Juneau, Monroe, Richland, and Wood counties also fall within the district.
WXOW-TV will also re-broadcast the debate on Sunday, November 1 at 1 p.m.
Earlier this month, candidates from the 95th Assembly met to debate.