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Van Orden is leading in a Wisconsin House race that is being touted as a GOP coup

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Republican Derrick Van Orden led the race for a congressional seat in western Wisconsin early Wednesday,…

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican Derrick Van Orden led the race for a congressional seat in western Wisconsin early Wednesday, hoping to win a seat in the House less than two years after he was seen outside the U.S. Capitol on a day when insurgents broke into the building.

Van Orden led Democratic state Sen. Brad Pfaff by about 4 percentage points with about 75% of the vote counted.

Van Orden is among a handful of people who were in Washington on the day of the Jan. 6 uprising and are now running for Congress. The former Navy SEAL denies involvement, except for Pfaff argued to voters that his presence should be a disqualification.

Both were looking for a place they had occupied for a long time Democrat Ron Kind before Kind, who narrowly defeated Van Orden in 2020, decided not to run for another term.

Van Orden far outnumbered Pfaff and had the advantage of running in a conservative-leaning district along the state’s western border. But he had to defend himself against questions about his presence on or near the US Capitol grounds during the uprising, when rioters violently stormed the building in an attempt to block the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory.

Van Orden said he was in Washington for political meetings when he attended a meeting with then-Pres. Donald Trump rally near the White House shortly before the attack on the Capitol. A Facebook photo from that day shows Van Orden posing with a small group of protesters on the Capitol grounds, but Van Orden said the suggestion that he was in a restricted area was “inaccurate.”

Pfaff, a state senator and former cabinet secretary to Gov. Tony Evers, said Van Orden’s continued presence outside the Capitol that day shows he lacks the character and judgment to be an effective member of Congress.

He also criticized Van Orden for saying that during the campaign shutdown in October “Leftists” cannot be Christians. During the stop, Van Orden called for a return to the Judeo-Christian values ​​on which he said “this country was founded” and mentioned that he is a member of the Bible Baptist Church, which considers homosexuality, along with incest and incest, “a sinful perversion “. The church also preaches that women should not be in leadership positions.

The 3rd District stretches from Menomonie south along the Mississippi River to Platteville. The district is mostly rural, but includes the Democratic towns of Eau Claire and La Crosse.

Democrat Barack Obama won the district twice in his presidential races, but the district has become more conservative since then, reflecting a nationwide trend in rural areas. Trump carried the district in 2016 and 2020. In 2020, Kind beat Van Orden by less than 3 points.

Incumbents in Wisconsin’s other seven congressional districts won big to keep their seats.

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