Champ's back room was filled with wall-to-wall energy and optimism Thursday, April 12, when members and leadership of the St. Croix County Democrats met to hear from three candidates vying to unseat 7th Congressional District Congressman Sean Duffy in November.

Before hearing from Margaret Engebretson, Dr. Brian Ewert and Bob Look, patrons were fired up by speeches from the newly elected state senator from the 10th District, Patty Schachtner, and candidate for Lt. Governor, Mandela Barnes.

"When Cathy and Katie called me in the middle of November to think about this, I was really nervous and really didn't think I was good enough to be in this position. What I've learned through this journey is that public office is just that, public office , we're all good enough. It's about local elections, that's what it's about, don't be afraid. We just have to have the courage to stand up for what we believe in," said Schachtner.

"There are many people out there who serve their community every day. They know what's going on in their community, what the needs are, and they know what the political atmosphere is like. They keep forging on because of their values and what they believe in. Those are the people that really make change," added Schachtner.

Schachtner thanked her supporters citing in particular the Forward Action Group and Indivisible and then shared what she has learned so far from her experience in Madison.

"What I've learned in my short time in Madison is, when people call our office, they want answers, they don't want promises. If you are not engaged as to what is going on in your community and don't really have a voice for everybody, you represent nobody. I don't represent like-minded folks, I represent District 10," said Schachtner.

Former two-term state representative from Milwaukee Mandela Bares is currently a candidate for Lieutenant Governor. His resume includes work as a community organizer in Milwaukee and most recently as a policy researcher with State Innovation Exchange.

"Patty's race set the stage for November for us all. Her victory was one of over 40 state legislatures flips since Donald Trump took office. Throughout this country we are flipping seats in Donald Trump dominated territory all over this country," said Barnes.

Barnes said Democrats cannot rely on anti-Trump sentiment to win the November election.

"When we lead with a vision we win. When we talk about who we are and what we want to do, what our plans are, we win. We can't spend our time as activists, our careers as legislators, only punching back against what Scott Walker is doing wrong. We get it. Our mistake has been that in 2010 we ran against Scott Walker and in 2012 in the recall we ran against Scott Walker and in 2014 again we ran against Scott Walker. In 2018 we need to run for something. This has to be the year we talk about our plan based on the essentials of opportunity. Those essentials are equity in healthcare, it's about our economy, it's about our education and it's about our environment and what we plan to do to strengthen our entire state in all four arenas and more."

Following Barnes, candidates Engebretson, Ewert and Look took turns answering questions from the audience.

Engebretson, a resident of Polk County, retired from a military career after 24 years, then worked as a railroad employee and a corrections officer before going back to school to earn her law degree from the University of Wisconsin. She operates her own practice in Balsam Lake specializing in guardian ad litem work advocating for children and disabled adults.

"I'm for Medicare for all. Healthcare is complicated, but ultimately it is a moral and ethical issue. What I have heard as I have traveled all around the district, from all persuasions .. they're all looking for decency and honor and ethical leadership in this country. We must put people in office that recognize that they are public servants and that they have a duty to their constituents and their nation," said Engebretson.

Marshfield resident Dr. Brian Ewert has served as a kidney physician for more than 25 years. He resigned as Executive Director of the$2 billion a year Marshfield Clinic health care system in October to run as a Democratic candidate for Duffy's 7th District seat.

Ewert shared his belief in universal healthcare for all while prioritizing student debt, the impacts of climate change, the rural economy and the need for much better broadband in the underserved rural sections of the 7th District. He also expressed his respect for gun owners but knows now is the time for democrats to move on gun safety.

"We need to determine what we need to do to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. The country is ready to have that discussion," said Ewert.

Rothschild resident and radio broadcast professional of more than 40 years, Bob Look, made sure audience members understood the distinction between what he saw as his responsibility, if elected, to represent all constituents as opposed to incumbent Duffy, who he characterized as Howdy Doody governing at the leave of special interests and big money.

"The strings tell the puppet what to do, how to talk, what to say. Those strings to me represent the big money donors, the corporate interests that are currently running our so-called representative. Right now our legislature is nothing more than a bunch of lap dogs. That's why I'm focused on the current occupier of that office. All you have to do is just make the case for common sense and you're going to win the day," said Look.