Katrina Shankland Joins a Growing Democratic Field Seeking to Replace Van Orden in Congress

Candidates for WI 3rd Congressional Dist

There are now four Democrats seeking the chance to challenge incumbent Republican Congressman Derrick Van Orden (inset) in the 3rd District: (Clockwise from top left) State Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point), Eau Claire entrepreneur Rebecca Coooke, Milwaukee native and law student Aaron Nytes, and former La Crosse County Board chair Tara Johnson.

By Pat Kreitlow

October 3, 2023

The Stevens Point legislator joins Eau Claire business owner Rebecca Cooke, former La Crosse County Board chair Tara Johnson, and a Milwaukee college student in announcing for the 3rd Congressional District.

State Assembly Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point), a 10-year veteran of the Wisconsin Legislature, announced Tuesday her candidacy for Congress in the 3rd District, making her the fourth announced Democrat seeking the chance to unseat incumbent Republican US Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-Prairie du Chien) after only one term.

Standing in front of the Stevens Point Brewery and a crowd of dozens of supporters, Shankland said she is running on her record of bipartisan achievement and labor support.

“I am ready to roll up my sleeves and fight against extremism and get things done for our community,” Shankland said, “just as I’ve done in the state legislature.”

“I was raised by public school teachers who taught me from a young age–don’t complain unless you’re going to do something about it. I am running for Congress to bring some common sense to our nation’s capital.” 

Seven labor unions announced their support upon Shankland entry into the race, demonstrating support from trades including electrical, railroad, iron, education, and firefighters.

“From increasing access to affordable healthcare in rural areas, to creating jobs, to creating a community paramedic program, to helping farmers improve water quality–I have worked hard and been effective at finding middle ground with both parties to improve the lives of the people of Wisconsin,” said Shankland. “Extremists like Derrick Van Orden are ignoring the needs of working people because they are too focused on causing dysfunction. He’s had his chance and failed to live up to the promise of this serious commitment. It’s time for a new leader who will put working families first.”

Shankland’s entry into the race means there are candidates running from each of the population centers in the 3rd Congressional District—Shankland’s 71st Assembly District is based in Portage and Wood counties, Tara Johnson is a former chair of the La Crosse County Board, and entrepreneur Rebecca Cooke’s roots are in the Eau Claire area.

Cooke, who became the first announced Democratic candidate in July, announced Tuesday morning that she has already raised more than $400,000. She is the only candidate from the 2022 four-person Democratic field to run again. Cooke finished second in votes to state Sen. Brad Pfaff (D-La Crosse) in last year’s primary but won a majority of counties across the district. 

Johnson, who announced her candidacy last month, announced endorsements Monday from Secretary of State Sarah Godlewski, Rep. Steve Doyle (D-Onalaska) and Senate Democratic Leader Melissa Agard of Madison. She had previously announced the endorsement of 2022 candidate Deb McGrath.

Milwaukee native and Harvard Law student Aaron Nytes has said he will move to the district next year to run in the Democratic primary.

Pfaff, who lost to Van Orden by a 52-48 margin in last year’s general election, announced in August he will run for a new term to his state Senate seat in 2024. Pfaff had run in 2022 with the endorsement of former Congressman Ron Kind, who held the seat for 26 years before announcing his retirement.

The winner of the August 13, 2024 primary will likely challenge first-term Republican Derrick Van Orden, who has not yet officially announced if he will run for reelection.

As the most competitive congressional race in Wisconsin and one of only a handful of truly competitive districts across the country, voters can again expect to see significant national spending on political advertising and activities. In the wake of a 2022 result that was closer than many expected, Democrats in western Wisconsin expressed anger that national party and independent group leaders pulled back or pulled out their financial support too soon.

Republicans will have to decide whether to show a high level of support for an incumbent who has had high-profile issues with angry outbursts, attempting to bring a gun onto an airplane, and being present on the US Capitol grounds during the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021. During a post-midnight incident in the Capitol rotunda over the summer, Van Orden screamed obscenities at a group of high school-age students serving as pages in the US Senate.

Shankland, a graduate of Wittenberg-Birnamwood High School, was first elected in 2012 to serve the 71st Assembly District. Shankland earned a bachelor’s degree from UW-Madison and a master’s degree from UW-Stevens Point.

During the current legislative session, Shankland serves on four committees: Colleges and Universities, Environment, Sporting Heritage, and Workforce Development.

Shankland’s initial labor endorsements are from the IBEW State Conference, lAFF Local 425, lAFF Local 484, BLET, Pipe Trades Association, SPARC AFT Local 6505, and Ironworkers Local 383.



  • Pat Kreitlow

    The Founding Editor of UpNorthNews, Pat was a familiar presence on radio and TV stations in western Wisconsin before serving in the state Legislature. After a brief stint living in the Caribbean, Pat and wife returned to Chippewa Falls to be closer to their growing group of grandchildren. He now serves as UNN's chief political correspondent and host of UpNorthNews Radio, airing weekday mornings 6 a.m.-8 a.m on the Civic Media radio network and the UpNorthNews Facebook page.

CATEGORIES: Uncategorized


Local News

Related Stories
Share This