An underdog rises: Rebecca Cooke’s loss is a win for rural votes in Wisconsin

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — Democrats say last night’s primary proved there is victory in loss. State Senator Brad Pfaff won the Democratic nomination for the 3rd Congressional District with 39% of the vote. Candidate Rebecca Cooke, a political newcomer, came in second, with 31%.

Underdogs don’t typically come out on top.

“She very much was an underdog,” political analyst Anthony Chergosky said.

If you ask Cooke, she disagrees.

“People underestimated me,” she said.

Over the past ten months, Cooke toured 19 Wisconsin counties on her way to second place.

“Eight hour days packed back to back to back working to really connect with stakeholder groups,” she said, recalling what the tour consisted of.

At 33, Cooke was the youngest candidate in the 3rd Congressional primary.

“My age was sometimes pointed out as a hindrance to me, but I think it’s what people are looking for as how do we build our future and who are the leaders to be able to do that,” Cooke said.

Political analysts say last nights results show the Democratic party is changing and voters want young representatives in Congress.

“A new generation of people with new idea who want to make an impact. She’s very much apart of that and is a wave of change that is happening in other areas of politics as well,” Chergosky said.

Cooke is small business owner who grew up on a farm. She won rural votes Democrats have historically lost.

“Democrats are really hungry for someone who can connect with their rural audience,” Chergoksy said.

Rural areas are votes state senator Pfaff failed to win.

“It shows you that Brad Pfaff really leaned on the voters that already know him,” Chergosky said.

Experts say to win in November, Pfaff will have to campaign in northern counties including Eau Claire and Stevens Point.

“He does need to expand his reach beyond his state senate district,” he said.

Pfaff will need Cooke’s help.

“I will with them and learn and together, we will win this seat,” Pfaff said about his fellow candidates.

As for Cooke, she hopes her campaign inspired women to follow in her footsteps.

“I want to continue to see women take leadership roles,” she said.

Cooke says she will help Pfaff — and her party– beat Republican Derrick Van Orden in November.