The open House seat in Wisconsin’s 8th CD was considered safe Republican. Bush defeated Kerry there by ten points. The race pitted first-time candidate Steve Kagen against powerful WI House Speaker John Gard. Before the primary had ended, the Gard campaign had begun viciously attacking Kagen. Kagen had to stop his slide and regain the momentum by redefining voters’ perception of Gard.
The Campaign Network helped define Gard as an ethically challenged career politician beholden to Washington lobbyists, and willing to deceive his constituents to advance his political ambitions. In one of the year’s big upsets, first-time candidate Kagen defeated the better financed Gard 51%–49%. His election was critical to the Democrats regaining control of the U.S. House of Representatives.