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.

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JH: In a sense you’re almost flipping Romney’s script. Romney accuses the president of being someone who has never run a business. Here you have Paul Ryan -- whom I’ve heard referred to as a “self-loathing public servant.”

All eyes have been on Wisconsin in the last year or two since the election of Scott Walker. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the street last year to oppose his draconian assault on working people. Despite being hugely outspent, the grassroots almost recalled him. They came very close and did recall several sitting senators. Were you involved in all of that? Did it impact your decision to run?

RZ: It did to a degree. My wife and I were in Madison marching around the capitol protesting the changes Scott Walker was bringing with his attack on working families and collective bargaining rights. My wife is a teacher in the state of Wisconsin. Our family was deeply impacted by these changes he was making to the public sector. I was contacted by the Democratic party and they said, "we know Paul Ryan is going to come out with a horrible plan. We want to have the best possible candidate to run against him to win the seat back. Put people on notice that if they’re going to attack the social safety net -- Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security -- that you’re going to lose your seat."

We assisted the recalls. In Kenosha, we paid for an office where the volunteers worked. We let them use our computers to make sure we were contacting as many voters as possible. We were active participants in that recall effort.

JH: We’ve seen a lot of progressives in the Democratic base threw their support behind various candidates, only to be disappointed to learn that those candidates don’t really represent their values when they get to Congress. How would you govern? What agenda would you pursue in congress?

RZ: I don’t really know how other people would perceive me. I approach things from a common-sense perspective. I think this is a lot of what’s been missing in Washington.

I tell people I support Medicare for All, and my opponent supports Medicare for None. I don’t support Medicare for all because I want to rehash the battles of the Affordable Care Act. I support Medicare for all because I look at this and see that we’re missing a hell of an opportunity here. If we had Medicare for all then we would be able to unleash the economic engine of small entrepreneurship that once existed in this country. People don’t start small businesses because they’re afraid of being bankrupted by unpaid medical bills, because they can’t afford these out of reach policies by private insurance. As a small businessman, I provided some of the best healthcare available and I saw my rates go up year after year by as much as 18 percent.

So we have one party in a two-party system protecting the profits of one industry, which are cannibalizing the profits of other small entrepreneurs and businesses, and putting the health and safety of our nation at risk by doing so. We spend 18 percent of our GDP on healthcare costs. That’s more than double the amount of any other Western, industrialized nation out there. If we don’t get this under control, it’s going to put us at a serious competitive disadvantage in the long term. It’s already starting to show an effect. I’m a common sense Democrat. Maybe people call me a progressive. I certainly see myself as a progressive because I believe in progressive values of things that help people.

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