Election 2014  
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Meet the Man Who's Trying to Force Paul Ryan to Look for a Real Job

Rob Zerban is running for Paul Ryan's House seat; he's the Koch brothers' candidate's first real challenger.

Once again, Koch brothers cash will face off against a people-powered campaign in Wisconsin this November. The race is for a House seat in the first Congressional District, a seat now held by Paul Ryan. His challenger – the first serious challenge he's faced in 14 years in Congress – is Rob Zerban, a restaurateur and County Commissioner.

Zerban faces an uphill battle against Ryan, who has amassed one of the largest campaign war-chests for a House race this cycle. But Zerban thinks that Ryan's gotten an easy ride so far, with his extreme views having so far been obscured by his media-friendly public persona as a young wonk. (You can find out more about his campaign here.)

If Romney is defeated in November, and Zerban manages to pull off a victory against his better funded opponent, then Paul Ryan, whose private sector experience amounts to a single year working in his family's business, will end up looking for a job next January. He'd surely be a welcome addition to Fox News.

Zerban appeared on this week's AlterNet Radio Hour to introduce himself to those outside of Wisconsin, and discuss how the race is going. Below is a lightly edited transcript (you can listen to the whole show here).

Joshua Holland: I know you're in it to win it. But under Wisconsin law what would happen if Ryan were to win both races?

Rob Zerban: His election to the House would be null and void. He would be seated as vice-president and a special election would be held within 90 days after that.

JH: Were you surprised by Ryan’s selection? It seems like a very risky move for Mitt.

RZ: I agree with you. I think it’s going to cost Mitt Romney the presidential campaign. I also think it’s going to cost Paul Ryan his seat, because once they highlight all the various aspects of the Ryan "kill Medicare plan" people are going to see what they really stand for. I think they’re going to reject it wholeheartedly. I was a little surprised by it.

JH: It’s funny because Democrats in House races around the country are trying to nationalize the race and run against Ryan’s plan. You have a real easy time of that.

Paul Ryan has never had a serious challenge to reelection, has he? You’re the first competitive challenger since his election to Congress in 1998. Is that right?

RZ: That’s correct. I would never criticize somebody’s efforts in a congressional race about what they did or didn’t do, but I am Paul Ryan’s first serious challenger. I’ve raised over $1.4 million in this race already. The last guy who ran raised all of about $12,000. We were getting some strong signals that Paul Ryan was getting concerned about his reelection this time. He had spent three times more on his media buy than he’s ever done before. He raised almost $1 million last quarter and spend almost $750k of it. He had never done that before. It’s the first time people get to go to the polls and cast a ballot on whether they like his plan to privatize Medicare and Social Security. I’m convinced that this will be a winner for us as well.

JH: Tell us a little bit about Wisconsin’s first district. I know it went for George Bush in 2004, but it went for Obama in 2008. I take it that it’s a bit of a swing district.

RZ: It really is a swing district. There was a congressman by the name of Les Aspin who went to the Clinton administration as Defense Secretary. He represented this district for about 20 years before he was tapped by President Clinton. It is a really moderate district. President Obama carried the district with 52 percent of the vote in 2008. Even after redistricting, he still would have carried the 1st district with the 2008 vote totals.

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