MADISON, Wis. — U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan sidestepped questions Monday about whether he thinks fellow Democrat Kelda Roys, a candidate for governor, is "honest and authentic," saying she "probably regrets" a comment she made seven years ago wrongly implying that she was gay.
Pocan, who is gay, defeated Roys in the Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District seat in 2012 before winning election to the seat for the first time. Pocan is not endorsing anyone in the Democratic primary for governor, where Roys is one of eight candidates squaring off on Aug. 14.
Instead, Pocan has tried to take a leadership role, encouraging the candidates to run positive campaigns, promising to step in if he thinks anyone doesn't stay focused on defeating Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
Pocan, who lives in Black Earth and represents the Madison area, was asked by reporters at a news conference about comments Roys made at a gay pride rally in 2011. Pocan said he was at the rally where Roys talked about fleeing Wisconsin with her "partner" to get married in Iowa. Gay marriage was legal in Iowa at the time but not in Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Republican Party has accused Roys of "pretending to be gay" on a website attacking her and other Democrats running for governor.
"It was a bad political calculation she made," Pocan said of her comments at the rally. "She made several during the campaign. ... I'm sure she's had six years to think about those things and probably regrets having done that."
He noted that Roys has attended his fundraisers since the 2012 campaign and he's met her baby.
Roys' spokesman Brian Evans said in response that Roys has supported Pocan "since the day their primary ended" and she would be honored to have his support as the nominee. Pocan said he would support whoever wins the Democratic primary.
Pocan said the most important qualities in a candidate are being "honest and authentic," but he hedged when asked whether he thought Roys met that standard.
"I hope that through the campaign she'll keep that as a forefront," he said when asked the first time. When asked again, Pocan said he hadn't seen many of the Democratic candidate forums, but he was heartened that Roys and other Democratic candidates had pledged to run clean campaigns.