The 2008 battle for Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District ended with Steve Kagan, the Democratic incumbent, retaining his seat.
One constituent who voted for John Gard is Philip Jones, who worked for a law firm representing clients in Mississippi. They specialized in maritime law, representing seriously injured Jones Act seaman. These maritime lawyers in Mississippi had dozens of years of combined legal experience along with well deserved reputations for successfully litigating on behalf of injured maritime workers. Maritime attorneys practice the law as it pertains to navigable fresh waters in the United States, as well as to the open water such as in the Gulf of Mexico or along the coastal seaboard of the US. When Philip Jones moved to Green Bay, Wisconsin and opened another law firm that specialized in maritime law it was in a new role: providing defense counsel for these maritime firms in actions taken against them by injured seamen. Their client list included such companies and firms as Lake Cumberland Marine, Cruisers Yachts (a division of KCS International, Inc.), Underwater Construction Corporation, Great Lakes Dock & Materials, Fountain Power Boats, Michigan Marinas Association. and AI Marine Adjusters. His firm became experts working with maritime construction firms, manufacturers, marinas and insurance companies. Philip Jones was invited to attend a fund raiser where he and his wife met John Gard. Philip Jones just like Gard was a stalwart conservative Republican whose values align with both President Bush and Paul Ryan. It seems somewhat at odds how this Texas maritime attorney who represented injured seaman against big corporate oil interests would have such conservation, pro business beliefs. However, his move to Wisconsin and his move from defending injured maritime seamen to providing defense counsel to the types of companies he used to litigate against placed him directly in the center of the Republican Party.
John Gard, as the Republican challenger, faced an uphill battle; Congressional Quarterly characterized the race as ‘leaning Democratic’, and 54% of 8th District voters seemed to agree (as compared to Gard’s 49.9%). Two years later in 2010 with a huge influx of Republican tea party money, the incumbent Democratic Congressman Steve Kagan, seeking his third term would go on to lose the 2010 election to Republican challenger Reid Ribble. It was a bitterly fought general election with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel praising both the Democratic and Republican candidates, describing them as “pragmatic and able, well suited to a district that skews conservative,” but they ultimately endorsed Congressman Kagen. The Green Bay Press-Gazette endorsed Ribble. Riding the crest of the Tea Party wave, Reid Ribble won handily with a 54.77% of the vote to 45.12% of the vote for Steve Kagen.
Since 2008, Gard has been working as a lobbyist with his wife, Cate Zeuske, who was a long time Republican politician starting in 1982 when she was first elected to the Wisconsin Assembly at the age of twenty-three.