The Democratic candidates in the running to replace Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, engage students in a debate on campus Thursday. Baldwin will be leaving her seat to run for U.S. Senate.[/media-credit]

Around 20 students gathered Thursday evening for the Second Congressional District candidate forum, as the four candidates shared their past experiences and views on politics and finance.

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, cyber and electronic security consultant Dennis Hall, Rep. Kelda Helen Roys, D-Madison, and local attorney Matt Silverman all took part in the forum hosted by UW’s chapters of The Young Progressives and College Democrats. They are running for the seat currently held by Rep. Tammy Baldwin, who is running for the Senate. 

All four candidates found fault with what Hall called a “broken” Congress. Pocan attributed his candidacy to the current “politically perilous time.”

The candidates also said they see a direct correlation between the “broken” political system and the special interest financing that backs congressional campaigns.

Roys highlighted what she found wrong with today’s political system anecdotally with her experiences warding off lobbyists in the Legislature.

“The tremendous influence of corporate interests in our political system, not just on the lobbying side but in funding elections, gives them all that power,” Roys said. “The compromising spirit and the unwillingness to stay on principle and fight even when it is tough are putting special interest above the public interest. Lobbyists shouldn’t dictate our public policy.”

Although all four of the candidates hold similar positions and claim the same political leanings, each candidate rested on their own “unique” past experiences.

Roys said she was the first candidate to refuse all endorsements and financial backing from corporate political action committees. She also complimented two of the three others on the panel for following suit.

According to Silverman, on average congressional members spend two to three hours a day raising the $1.4 million needed to run their political campaigns. Silverman, who will also not be accepting private money, said time could be better spent on other things.

Silverman, admitting he was the only candidate who does not have any political experience, said he bases his campaign strategy on his military background.

“Serving in the army, you have to balance two things,” Silverman said. “One, you cannot fail, and the second is that you have to take care of the men and women under your charge. That duality is very similar to what it means to be a congressman. You have a responsibility to your nation and a responsibility to your district.”

According to Hall, his experience as a Vietnam veteran has also had an influence on his desire to legislate.

The forum also briefly addressed environmental issues, and Pocan said he has received an endorsement from environmental nonprofit Clean Wisconsin.

Roys said since she voted against a bill that would streamline the process for attaining a mining permit in the Legislature, she supports a clean environmental policy in her fight against polluters.

Silverman also mentioned the influence his military background has had on his views on energy.

“I had the privilege to fight a war on oil, and I don’t want to do it again,” Silverman said.

However, Silverman said the economy and health care were not touched upon throughout the debate. Students were encouraged to speak with the candidates during a short meet and greet after the forum.

Despite the candidates’ beliefs and statements throughout the forum that a Democrat will win the seat, Republican Chad Lee and Independent Joe Kopsick are also running for the position.

The Democratic primary elections for the second congressional district seat will take place Aug. 14.