WASHINGTON — Wisconsin is set to become a key battleground state in next year’s election. As the fields in some key races take shape, some unlikely candidates for office are hoping getting in early could benefit their long-shot campaigns.

What You Need To Know

  • Rejani Raveendran, 40, is the first Republican to challenge Democrat Sen. Tammy Baldwin next year

  • Aaron Nytes, a 25-year-old Harvard Law School student, announced his bid for Wisconsin's 3rd Congressional District on Friday

  • Raveendran, a single mother of three who emigrated to the U.S. from India in 2011, is studying political science at UW-Stevens Point

  • This is the first time both candidates are running for office

Rejani Raveendran's, 40, campaign roll out has been modest. Days after announcing her candidacy, she walked in the “Ice Age Days” festival parade in Rib Lake, Wis., alongside an old-school bronco truck with a few of her posters taped to it.

“I'm not a millionaire. I'm not a billionaire. I'm not a career politician,” Raveendran said. “I'm standing for the regular people. I'm one among them. I know about their problems. I know their struggles because it's my struggle. It's my problem.”

Raveendran is the first Republican to challenge Democrat Sen. Tammy Baldwin next year. The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point student is a single mother of three who emigrated to the U.S. from India in 2011. This is her first run for elected office.

“I felt like we need to have a political reform — someone with a new face, new ideas has to step in,” she said. “Someone who knows the problem of the regular people.”

Raveendran previously worked as a registered nurse before pursuing her degree now in political science. She’s virtually unknown to Wisconsin voters but is pledging to make an effort to raise her political profile.

“Even if it is a long shot, if you know how to throw the ball, you can make the goal,” Raveendran said.

She’s shooting her shot while wide open. Republican Congressmen Mike Gallagher, Bryan Steil and Tom Tiffany all declined to take on Baldwin. Baldwin won her two previous Senate races by comfortable margins and has been raising millions of dollars in campaign contributions. 

Experts said while Raveendran would appear to have little chance against Baldwin, the window is at least open a bit for her to try.

“If the more established names start to enter the picture, then that'll quickly quickly crowd out any space for the long-shot candidate,” said Anthony Chergosky, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. “That’s why, I think, strategically the timing is right in the U.S. Senate race.

She’s not the only outsider looking to make an early impression with voters. Democrat Aaron Nytes, a 25-year-old Harvard Law School student, recently announced his campaign to unseat freshman Republican Congressman Derrick Van Orden.

Derrick Van Orden (left) speaks to voters in 2022 and a courtesy picture of Aaron Nytes (Spectrum News/Taurean Small)

“I'm not super familiar with [Raveendran’s] campaign but I will say that voters are starting to wake up and pay more attention to how disproportionate representation is in Congress compared to who they claim to represent,” Nytes said. “There are going to be attacks of inexperience; there's going to be attacks of, ‘You don't represent the district,’ but what's really important is that younger people get involved because the future that we're creating directly impacts the younger generations.”

Chergosky said newcomers face the challenge of building momentum around their campaigns.

“I don't think there's anything wrong with anyone running for office; it’s all about the message and the resources,” he said. “Do you have a message that connects with voters? And can you attract the resources to get that message out to publicize your campaign message?"

Attracting those resources and money will be a heavy lift. Although, former congressional candidate Rebecca Cooke did raise more then $200,000 in the month after entering the Democratic primary in Van Orden’s district. Over in the Senate race, successful Republican businessmen Eric Hovde and Scott Mayers are also considering taking on Baldwin.