Rep. Duffy says opponent wants socialist policies; Engebretson calls him ‘absentee representative’

WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) – Days after Rep. Sean Duffy said his November general election opponent would push for socialist policies, Polk Co. Democrat Margaret Engebretson called the characterization inaccurate.

“That is an incorrect label,” Engebretson said during her first visit to Wausau since winning the 7th Congressional District Democratic primary Tuesday. “If he looks it up in the dictionary he’ll find it doesn’t apply to me.”

Merriam-Webster defines socialism as, “Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.”

“We have on the Democrat side people who believe in socialism,” Rep. Duffy, R-Wausau, said Tuesday. “People who want the government to run the economy. They don’t want a quality of opportunities. They want a quality of outcomes. They want government run health care. They want to impeach the President. They want to abolish ICE. They don’t want border security. I’m OK running on those principles in opposition, I believe in free enterprise has lifted more people out of poverty in America and help people out more than socialism.”

Engebretson responded to Rep. Duffy as she laid out her vision for Wisconsin during a news conference at the Marathon County Democratic Party Headquarters.

Shortly after her response, Rep. Duffy’s campaign spokesperson Mark Bednar said the congressman stood by his Tuesday night statement.

"Margaret Engebretson wants socialist policies like a complete government takeover of healthcare that would cost at least $32 trillion over ten years. In addition, she supports higher taxes on Wisconsin families and major interventions of the government into our free enterprise system," Bednar said.

While Engebretson did not address Rep. Duffy’s charges directly, she did call Rep. Duffy an ‘absentee representative.’

"People complain that he does not respond to them,” Engebretson said. “They go to his town hall. They don't get responses they need. I've had people contact my campaign and say ‘I'm losing my business because of these tariffs. Why won't he respond to me? Why isn't he there for me?'

The Democrat said she has heard the criticisms repeatedly from Wisconsinites in small towns and larger cities.

Rep. Duffy’s spokesperson, Bednar, called it a ridiculous accusation, saying the congressman has kept his promise to have town hall meetings in every Wisconsin county, every year, since being elected in 2010.

“She referenced the fact he hosts town halls to discuss issues with constituents,” Bednar said. “People also know that Sean lives with his family in Wausau, attends church in Wausau, his kids go to school in Wausau, and goes to the Walmart in Wausau. Additionally, every constituent letter that is sent to Congressman Duffy’s office receives a prompt reply.”

On the issues, the Navy veteran said she would push for better healthcare, more jobs, increased pay, and workplace equality as she moved forward toward the November election.

“When Democrats stick up for people we win,” Engebretson said. “This is no ordinary election year, and it is vital that we defend our democracy. Which is under assault from many different directions.”

Emphasizing the unity she said it will take for the Democrats to win back the seat in November, Engebretson was joined by her primary opponent Brian Ewert, who has now endorsed her.

Unofficial results show this year's 7th Congressional Democratic primary saw 47,436 total votes. Two years ago, in the same primary, the Democrats had 33,870 total votes.

Going into the November election, Democrats seem to like the trend they feel they are seeing. The Duffy Campaign said the numbers do not concern them.