Bring the troops home: DeNure says he's running a single-issue campaign
After he submitted the first 368 signatures he had painstakingly collected on his nomination papers, Chip DeNure was told they would be rejected on a technicality.
A state elections official said the signatures were all invalid because the date DeNure wrote at the top of the form was Sept. 12, the day of the primary election, not Nov. 7, the day of the general election.
"I just wanted to crawl under the bed," said DeNure, 57, a Wisconsin probation agent on mandatory leave as he campaigns against 10-year incumbent Ron Kind.
Instead, DeNure hit the streets and parking lots again and collected 1,600 signatures -- 600 more than he needed. And, he said, he personally collected nearly all of them.
Not surprising really for a man who has run unsuccessfully for County Board twice, La Crosse City Council once and La Crosse mayor twice -- and focuses not on how many times he lost, but on how close he twice came to winning.
DeNure said he is a reluctant opponent of Kind. He looked long and hard for a Democrat with more experience to take on the incumbent. But in the end, said DeNure, it fell to him.
The reason is simple: He feels Kind abandoned his constituents last December when he voted with congressional Republicans to keep U.S. soldiers in Iraq until victory is achieved.
"His position, as far as I can tell, is pretty much the same as Bush's," said DeNure, who said "the tragedy in Iraq" is the main reason for his campaign to defeat Kind.
Instead, DeNure supports a policy proposed by Sen. Russ Feingold to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by the middle of next year.
"It's just a strategic withdrawal," said DeNure of the plan.
The United States has spent billions and will spend billions more on a war it can't win, said DeNure. He said the money would be better used for programs in the United States.
"That's money that could be used here at home," said DeNure. "People are hurting in this country."
Before he decided to run, DeNure fired off letters to the state's largest newspapers, urging experienced Democrats to challenge Kind.
"I said we need a latter-day Eugene McCarthy to come forward," said DeNure. "I did my best to get somebody else to come forward, but nobody would."
He said the question he asks of voters is, "Do you want to continue with 'victory in Iraq,' or do you want something else?"
Over 2,500 Americans have died in Operation Iraqi Freedom, about 18,000 have been wounded and many more have been psychologically damaged beyond healing after the Bush administration led the country into war using distortions as justification, said DeNure.
"I think that's a high crime," he said, calling for impeachment hearings against both President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney.
DeNure also wants to reopen the 9/11 investigation, referring to a claim that there were 115 omissions and distortions in the 9/11 Commission Report.
As for other issues, DeNure supports a single-payer health care program similar to Canada's and dismisses criticisms of such a plan.
"Whatever we come up with won't be perfect," he concedes. But, he said, it has to be better than what we have.
While both the Kind and Paul Nelson campaigns report war chests of hundreds of thousands, DeNure is campaigning on a shoestring.
"So far I've donated $13,000 of my own money to my campaign," he said, "and that's pretty much what I'm going to spend."
DeNure was born in Flint, Mich., graduated from Platteville High School and earned a degree in education from UW-La Crosse. He worked as a machine operator at a John Deere plant for 10 years before earning a degree in communications from UW-Platteville.
He worked as a radio announcer for five years and then as a social worker at St. Croix Correctional Center before becoming a probation agent in 1991.
He is divorced and has no children.
For more information about his campaign, go to www.protectthetroops.com.