The borders of the 2nd Congressional District have shifted west since 2010, when Chad Lee first ran for U.S. Congress. Eastern counties Jefferson and Columbia are no longer part of the district, but Iowa and Lafayette are, as are parts of Sauk and Richland counties.
Lee, who grew up in Mount Horeb and lives there today, says that's been a nice change.
As a kid his family spent a lot of time at Governor Dodge State Park and other points due west. Now campaigning in the area, Lee says he runs into people he knew from school and church.
"So it's been nice to see some friendly faces and longtime friends out there," he says.
Politically, however, the district lines still favor Democrats, as they have since 2000, when the city of Beloit was added to the mix. And while Lee, a Republican, put up a spirited fight against incumbent Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin in 2010, he faces an uphill climb again, this time against Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan, who has represented Madison in the state Legislature since 1998. Baldwin is vacating the seat to run for U.S. Senate.
Lee laughs when asked why he's giving it a second shot.
"I wasn't planning on running again," he says, noting he kept saying no when asked to by others. "I went back to my business. That's my passion. It's my identity. Not politics."
Lee's website bio notes he has successfully acquired real estate and founded and sold a cleaning company. His campaign manager Stephanie Kundert says he is currently the vice president of a technology startup company - "a.k.a. 'the next generation of Google,' as he calls it."
Lee says that he and his wife are looking to have children soon, and that he is so dismayed at the state of Washington, D.C. - from the deficit to the budget stalemate - that he changed his mind about running again.
"I want my children to have the same opportunity I was afforded," he says. "I want to protect future generations."
Lee sees President Barack Obama's health care reform law as one example of the federal government's misguided ways and says that the "unintended consequences" of the Affordable Care Act are starting to come out.
Lee says a Wisconsin business owner told him the other day that he was going to have to cut the hours of some of his employees due to Obamacare. Under the law, employers with 50 or more full-time workers have to provide health insurance for those workers, but no company has to provide insurance for part-time employees working fewer than 30 hours a week.
"That's an unintended consequence the bureaucrats in D.C. don't understand," Lee says.
Pocan, on the other hand, supports Obamacare. In a debate Oct. 16 with Lee in DeForest, the candidates were asked whether they supported the act's requirement to "provide reproductive care."
Pocan answered in broad terms: "If you offer health care you have to offer comprehensive health care," he said. "If you start to pick and choose what you cover, you're not really offering health care. You shouldn't discriminate based on someone's gender or needs."
Lee was more specific, wading into the heart of the controversy over the act's requirement that employers' health insurance cover birth control.
"I've got no issue with contraception, but I do believe in the First Amendment," Lee said. "Catholic institutions will be hit with a fee because of their standing on their religion. I would suggest a bipartisan solution by allowing vouchers to be given to people who aren't covered. But I don't want to force my beliefs or the government's beliefs on a Catholic institution or anything else."
The candidates parted ways on most other topics as well. Pocan favors an expansion of Medicare, while Lee said he wanted to make sure entitlements were safe for the future and that changes might have to be made for people now 55 and under.
Lee is not willing to entertain tax increases to address mounting debt, but Pocan said fairness demands a combination of revenue increases and spending cuts.
"You have to have a balanced approach," said Pocan.