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Democratic Rep. Ron Kind fends off challenge in Wisconsin

Democratic Rep. Ron Kind fends off challenge in Wisconsin
© Greg Nash

Rep. Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindFive centrist Democrats oppose Pelosi for Speaker in tight vote Pelosi wins Speakership for fourth time in dramatic vote LIVE COVERAGE: House votes to name Speaker MORE (D-Wis.) survived a rare threat to his long tenure on Capitol Hill, defeating his GOP opponent, military veteran Derrick Van Orden, to secure a 13th term in Congress.

The Associated Press called the race on Wednesday. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Kind had 51 percent of the vote compared to Van Orden's 49 percent. 

A lawyer, bow-hunter and consummate moderate, Kind is a former chairman of the New Democrat Coalition, a group of pro-business centrists that promotes bipartisanship, and has shown few qualms bucking his own party leaders. In 2019, he opposed Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Biden unveils virus plan and urges patience | Fauci says it's 'liberating' working under Biden | House to move quickly on COVID-19 relief Overnight Defense: House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee | Biden to seek five-year extension of key arms control pact with Russia | Two more US service members killed by COVID-19 On The Money: Pelosi says House will move immediately on COVID-19 relief | Biden faces backlash over debt | 900,000 more Americans file for unemployment benefits MORE's (D-Calif.) bid to extend her Speakership.

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But it was a party-line vote that prompted this year's formidable challenge. Van Orden, a former Navy SEAL, said he was spurred to jump into the race for Wisconsin's 3rd District after Kind voted with most Democrats to impeach President TrumpDonald TrumpIran's leader vows 'revenge,' posting an image resembling Trump Former Sanders spokesperson: Biden 'backing away' from 'populist offerings' Justice Dept. to probe sudden departure of US attorney in Atlanta after Trump criticism MORE late last year.

Trump had carried Wisconsin in 2016, topping Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSamantha Power's Herculean task: Turning a screw with a rubber screwdriver Beau Biden Foundation to deny lobbyist donations, make major donors public Whoopi Goldberg wears 'my vice president' shirt day after inauguration MORE by 1 point, and the state remained a crucial battleground heading into Election Day. Although Kind had cruised to reelection with 60 percent of the vote in 2018, the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan handicapper, had shifted him from a "likely" victor into its more vulnerable "leans Democrat" column at the end of September.

Still, Democrats have made health care the focus of their campaign in races around the country, an issue of particular resonance amid the coronavirus crisis. And the Badger State has been hit hard in recent weeks, providing Kind with an opportunity to elevate the candidates' contrasting approaches to fighting the pandemic.

Kind has supported each of the Democrats' proposals for emergency relief, including the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act, passed in May, which Van Orden called a political stunt.

Kind has also embraced the recommendations of public health officials — including an adherence to social distancing that Van Orden has flouted — while defending the Affordable Care Act, which Van Orden wants repealed.

Van Orden's campaign also hinged on the central argument that, after 24 years in Washington, Kind was no longer in tune with his state. In Tuesday's election, Wisconsin voters disagreed.