Kyle Frenette, the longtime manager of Eau Claire-based musician Justin Vernon and his band Bon Iver, formally announced his intention Thursday to run for Congress.
Frenette, 30, of Chetek, plans to run as a Democrat for the 7th Congressional District seat held by four-term U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wausau.
“I grew up in a time when hard work and helping your neighbors was enough to get ahead and build a good life for you and your family, but that’s not the case anymore,” Frenette in a news release announcing his campaign. “We need to ensure that every person, young or old — no matter their race, gender or income — is given the same fair shot to succeed. I’m running because we have an opportunity to empower each other to make a real difference for our great state and nation.”
Frenette grew up in Chippewa Falls and founded an independent record label while attending college in St. Paul. After completing a two-year degree in business, he moved back to Wisconsin and began managing Bon Iver, the indie rock bank that toured worldwide and won two Grammy Awards. He also founded Middle West, an independent artist management firm, and was named in 2011 to both Billboard’s and Forbes’ “30 Under 30” lists for influential people in the music industry.
“I know what it’s like to fight for Wisconsin values and remain true to my background, navigating an unforgiving, elitist industry while never forgetting where I came from,” he said on his campaign website (kyleforwisconsin.com), referring to his upbringing in a working-class family.
Frenette, who couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Thursday, said in the release that he wants to “bring Wisconsin back to Washington, D.C.”
“It’s time we choose prosperity for all over the greed of a few,” Frenette said. “And that starts from the bottom-up — with good jobs, quality education, protecting our environment and a health care system that serves everyone.”
His campaign website indicates that he would achieve those goals, in part, through support of a gradual increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour, increased investment in infrastructure, high-speed rail, a single-payer health care program, more emphasis on mental health treatment, public schools over privatized learning, immediate measures to limit the effects of climate change and moving toward cleaner and more sustainable forms of energy.
Frenette said he plans to make the case that he will stand with voters of the 7th District rather than following what he characterized as Duffy’s approach of representing wealthy donors.
“As we have seen in Wisconsin and across the nation, vulnerable right-wing Republicans like Duffy have paid a stiff price for their irresponsible votes to take away health care and reward the wealthiest at the expense of working Americans,” the release said.
Duffy campaign spokesman Mark Bednar responded Thursday by releasing a statement: “Democrats are in a crowded primary until the end of summer. Meanwhile, Congressman Sean Duffy continues to fight for lower taxes, wage boosts, and greater opportunity for Wisconsinites of all backgrounds.”
Other potential 7th District candidates registered with the state or federal election commissions are Democrats Allen Campos of Sheldon, David Beeksma of Ashland, Margaret Engebretson of Balsam Lake and Brian Ewert of Marshfield, and Ken Driessen of Hayward, who lists his party as direct participatory democracy.
The candidates will square off in an Aug. 14 primary, with the winner taking on Duffy in the Nov. 6 general election.
Frenette’s announcement was accompanied by the release of a campaign video titled “A Phone Call to Wisconsin” in which Frenette talks about his background and his strong attachment for northwestern Wisconsin to scenes of him jogging, hiking, ice fishing, sharing a family dinner and jamming to music with friends.
After describing troubling changes to his native Wisconsin, he declares in the video, “I’ve decided I’m going to run for Congress because there is so much more that can be done with the right leadership.”
The release indicates the Frenette campaign hopes to stop in all 26 counties in northwestern Wisconsin that comprise the 7th District.
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