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Teacher takes on Harsdorf

Dan Olson

After surviving a recall attempt last summer, Wisconsin Sen. Sheila Harsdorf will face another challenge this fall -- again from a high school teacher.

Dan Olson, of Clayton, who teaches world history and government at St. Croix Falls High School, filed 709 valid nomination signatures June 1 -- more than the 400 needed to get his name on the ballot for the Nov. 6 general election.

He is the only candidate to file as a Democrat, and Harsdorf is the only one to file as a Republican, so there will be no primary for that seat in August.

During a recall attempt last August, Harsdorf handily defeated Shelly Moore, an Ellsworth High School English and drama teacher. Harsdorf is up for re-election this fall as are all state senators in the even-numbered districts. The state's Government Accountability Board reports she filed 800 valid signatures, the maximum allowed, on May 30.

"I'm very passionate about representative government," said Olson after being reached by telephone Monday evening. "I see character, honesty, openness and compromise as the cornerstones of democracy. Those are the things I can offer to the people in the 10th Senate District."

Olson said, "I always tried to teach my students that responsible government means you have to answer to your constituents."

"Being unopposed gives a candidate a free pass and doesn't promote the discussion many voters are seeking," he said.

"I'm a very optimistic person," said Olson of the challenge of facing an incumbent with broad support.

Harsdorf spoke to his class before the election in which she defeated incumbent Alice Clausing for the 10th District Senate seat.

He spoke highly of Harsdorf: "She's a super, super nice lady."

But, he said, "We can do better in our district."

He said a senator representing this area must be responsible to the people of the 10th Senate District and focus on issues important here instead of the "issues being handed down to us."

"Putting our people back to work is a big key to me," Olson said.

The unemployment rate in St. Croix County is low, he said, but the district also includes Pierce, Polk and Burnett counties, where things aren't going as well.

Olson is in his 22nd year in the National Guard and served in Iraq from 2004 to 2005.

He has taught in St. Croix Falls for 14 years and before that taught four years in Turtle Lake. He is married with two daughters.

Harsdorf has represented the 10th District in the Wisconsin Senate since 2000. Before that she served in the Assembly from 1988 to 1996.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.