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Democrat Bangstad Enters 34th Assembly District Race, Calling State ‘Corrupt’

Kirk Bangstad

Minocqua Brewing Company owner Kirk Bangstad, a Democrat, will challenge incumbent state Rep. Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander) for his State Assembly seat this fall.

Bangstad said he decided to get involved when Republicans sued Gov. Tony Evers when Evers tried to move the April election during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m not built to see a corrupt state. I feel like that’s where I live right now. I feel like there’s a lot of corruption in our state government, and it’s just hard for me to exist day-to-day and see that and not want to do something about it,” he said. “I just thought, this is the last straw. This is just untenable. Our state is no longer fair.”

Bangstad briefly challenged then-Congressman Sean Duffy in 2015 before dropping out of the race a few months later.

That run was “more about ambition, more about the glory of being a politician,” Bangstad said.

He said this time is about making a difference.

Bangstad is running in an Assembly district that hasn’t been won by a Democrat since Jim Holperin in 1992.

But he thinks Donald Trump’s handling of the health crisis will cause people to turn away from Republicans.

“I think it’s going to be a travesty for this country, but I think it’s going to be a blue wave because of it in November,” Bangstad said. “I think people are going to vote for Democrats, even though they might lean conservative, because they’re disgusted by what’s going on.”

Swearingen confirmed to WXPR he will run for reelection for his fifth term to the State Assembly.

Ben worked as the Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR from September 2019 until November 2021. He now contributes occasionally to WXPR. During his full-time employment, his main focus was reporting on environment and natural resources issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.
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