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Running for office with purpose

The fact that Scott Ross was able to travel to New Richmond on Friday was a small miracle in itself.

Five years ago, Ross weighed 500 pounds and smoked a pack of cigarettes every day.

Today he's touring the state, stopping at community celebrations and entering area running races, to promote his unlikely campaign to become Wisconsin next Secretary of State.

"I was truly blessed with a second chance," Ross said in an interview with The News. "I intend to do something with that second chance."

Ross had gastric bypass surgery and gave up smoking to try and improve his health.

He now weighs about 250 pounds. He runs in numerous races and recently completed his first marathon. Ross rarely wins, but simply by competing he's able to claim victory.

A Democratic party worker, Ross also vowed to do his part to change the direction of the state's political system.

He's seeking to unseat current Secretary of State Doug LaFollette, a fellow Democrat who has held his seat for 28 years. Ross readily acknowledges the difficult challenge before him.

"My opponent has a famous last name," Ross said of the LaFollette legacy in Wisconsin politics. "Kids hear that name in school."

But Ross is by no means ready to concede the race. Afterall, he has a political pedigree as well -- his distant relative was Betsy Ross of American flag fame.

A recent poll conducted at the state Democratic convention in LaCrosse gave Ross a 17-point margin of victory (54 to 37 percent).

"It's a good indication that people are ready for a change," he said. "What I bring is enthusiastic and energetic leadership."

Ross's key campaign theme is an attempt to return the oversight of the state's election to the Secretary of State's office. That oversight responsibility was taken away in 1974, even though the Secretary of State's office in 39 other states fill that role.

"It's only going to increase the level of accountability if there is somebody who is directly responsible for elections," Ross explained.

"My platform is pretty simple. I want to make sure everyone who has the right to vote and wants to vote gets to vote... and every single vote is counted."

Ross worked previously as Ron Kind's press secretary and helped with Kathleen Falk's 2002 gubernatorial race and Peg Lautenschlager's race for attorney general. Most recently he was research director for the Democratic Party in Wisconsin. He lives in Madison.

Ross and LaFollette will face off in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary.