In her first run for elected office, Jodi Emerson of Eau Claire cruised past three other Democratic rivals in Tuesday’s primary election to earn the party’s nomination in the 91st Assembly District.

Emerson, 46, received 37 percent of the vote in winning the hard-fought race by more than 700 votes, compared with 27 percent for former Eau Claire Councilman Thomas Vue, 25 percent for former Councilman Eric Larsen and 11 percent for UW-Stout lecturer Rich Postlewaite. Vue had been seeking to become Wisconsin’s first Hmong state legislator. 

With all 41 precincts reporting, the unofficial vote totals were: Emerson, 2,553; Vue, 1,836; Larsen, 1,712; and Postlewaite, 791. 

“It’s really exciting,” Emerson said. “I just feel really honored that the people of Eau Claire put their faith in me and picked me to be their Democratic nominee.”

Emerson now moves on to the Nov. 6 general election to take on the lone Republican in the race, Echo Reardon of Eau Claire.

Emerson, who gained significant political experience working for most of the past five years as director of public policy and community relations for the anti-human trafficking advocacy group Fierce Freedom, credited “good, old-fashioned hard work” for the primary victory. Emerson said she and her campaign volunteers knocked on 3,600 doors in the past week alone. 

“I think people recognized that and believe that same work ethic will translate into how I would treat the job in Madison,” she said, adding that she plans to apply the same approach to her general election campaign.

“We’ll stick with the same game plan that got us here — working hard, connecting with voters and continuing to listen to the people of the 91st Assembly District,” she said.

About 20 percent of eligible voters in Eau Claire County participated in Tuesday’s primary, according to local election officials.

Emerson said she was pleased that the primary campaign stayed positive despite the crowded field. 

Wachs, the only person to represent the 91st District as it is currently configured, created the logjam when he elected not to file for re-election because he was running for governor, although he suspended his gubernatorial campaign in June.

The 91st District, widely considered a strong Democratic district, is comprised of most of the city of Eau Claire.

With four Democrats from Eau Claire who share many similar views seeking the same legislative seat in a rare August primary, local Democrats had said projecting the winner or the number of votes needed for victory was nearly impossible, and Emerson agreed the race felt close the whole way. 

Even Wachs said before the primary that he had no idea what to expect.

“We’ve got four good, talented people who are bringing different things to the table. I think any one of them would be good,” Wachs said recently.

The candidates in such a crowded primary faced the challenge of trying to introduce themselves to as many voters as possible and differentiate themselves from their generally like-minded competitors.

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