It’s one vision of the federal government’s role versus another.
A battle between a scrappy challenger with limited political experience, and an established congressional veteran with a national stature and a simultaneous place on the GOP presidential ticket.
It’s Paul Ryan vs. Rob Zerban, in an unusually spirited race for Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District.
Zerban, a Kenosha Democrat who served two terms on the County Board, has proved himself Ryan’s most formidable challenger to date, taking in more than $2 million in campaign cash — outraising Ryan in the third quarter this year — and running an active campaign replete with district-wide television ads and a consistent presence at community events from Kenosha to Janesville.
Ryan, on the other hand, came into the campaign with roughly $4 million on hand, and continues to hold a significant war-chest lead over Zerban.
A seven-term incumbent, the Janesville Republican has scored significant victories in all of his re-election bids, taking 68 percent of the vote against his Democratic challenger in 2010.
But a few things have changed for Ryan recently.
As presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s running mate, Ryan has found relatively little time to campaign in his home district, relying largely on a steady stream of TV ads to keep his congressional bid on the minds of southern Wisconsin voters.
And, as Zerban is quick to point out, this is Ryan’s first campaign since introducing his GOP budget proposal with its controversial plan to overhaul Medicare — a plan Ryan says is needed to save the program for future generations, and one which Zerban and his fellow Democrats say will all but end the health benefit for seniors.
Who will it be? Voters in the district, which includes all of Kenosha County, will decide Nov. 6. If Ryan wins both the congresional race and the vice presidency, a special election would be on tap next year.
Who are these men, and what are their positions? And what if you’re looking for a third choice?
Below are short biographies of Ryan and Zerban. For a full story on each of them, plus Libertarian candidate Keith Deschler, click on the link in the related story section on the left side of this page.
Paul RyanParty -- Republican
Age -- 42
Residence -- Janesville
Education -- Bachelor’s degree in economics and political science, Miami University of Ohio
Occupation -- Congressman
Elected experience -- U.S. House of Representatives, 1999-present
Rob ZerbanParty -- Democrat
Age -- 44
Residence -- Kenosha
Education -- Graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, N.Y.
Occupation -- Former small-business owner
Elected experience -- Kenosha County Board, 2008-12