Oct 13, 2014 5:16 PM

Paul Ryan to debate Democratic House challenger

The Associated Press

KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) Two years ago this week, Paul Ryan was sparring with Joe Biden during a vice presidential debate and largely ignoring his House re-election bid back home.

Not this time.

Ryan, a Republican from GOP-leaning southern Wisconsin, planned to debate Democratic businessman Rob Zerban on Monday. While Ryan is favored to easily win re-election, he isn't taking voters' support for granted and is looking to take advantage of an opportunity to practice debating ahead of a potential 2016 presidential run.

Ryan is aware what happens when powerful lawmakers seem to blow off their home-district constituents. Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House, lost a stunning primary race against a little-known professor earlier this year. Voters listened to complaints that Cantor had spent too much time away from his Virginia district and forgotten about his neighbors. After the loss, Cantor resigned from his leadership post and then his seat altogether.

Being away from home is not as much of a problem for Ryan; he returns to his home in Janesville, Wisconsin, most weekends to spend time with his wife and three school-age children.

Ryan and Zerban have faced each other on the ballot before but not during formal debates. When they ran against each other in 2012, Ryan was sprinting around the country as Mitt Romney's running mate and declined to debate Zerban.

Romney and Ryan failed to win the White House, but Ryan did capture an eighth congressional term with 55 percent of the vote despite Zerban's frequent criticism of Ryan's economic proposals.

With Ryan eyeing a potential 2016 presidential bid, a chance to go one-on-one with a political foe was an event he agreed to take twice. The pair first meets Monday at Carthage College in Kenosha and again next week at the University of Wisconsin-Rock Creek.

Kenosha is considered Zerban's political turf; he served two terms as a Kenosha County board supervisor. Ryan hails from Janesville, at the other end of the district.


Follow Philip Elliott on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/philip_elliott


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