One revolved around the four wines he was pouring at the Sommelier Wine Shop in Kenosha. "It's got a crisp taste, a little pucker on the tongue, some sweetness," he said, of one of the four bottles in front of him. The wines came from Trento, Italy, and Bad Wildungen, Germany -- the places his mother's, and father's families came from.
(Hey, as a political fund-raiser, meet-n-greet topic, it sure beat a stiff in a suit delivering a speech!)
The other conversation had more political substance: what he would do if elected to Congress in the 1st Congressional District in November.
Mogk is the latest Democrat seeking the opportunity to oppose Republican Paul Ryan, who has held the Congressional seat for 10 years. Ryan has incumbency, a huge war chest and a string of five easy victories behind him.
Despite all that, Democrats are eager to take him on in this presidential election year, a year in which all the recent Wisconsin polls show Democrat Barack Obama with a substantial lead over Republican John McCain. Marge Krupp announced her candidacy last June; Paulette Garin in January. By February, there were four: Dr. Jeffrey Thomas, Ryan's victim in each of the past four elections, is running yet again; and so is the man Thomas edged out in the 2006 Democratic primary, Mike Hebert.
And since earlier this month there are five: Call John Mogk Johnny-come-lately or accept his analysis that "there's still not a front-runner" among the earlier-announced candidates. "I started talking to people and getting encouraged to run. I'm really not being a spoiler. I think I've caught up with the other candidates already, in terms of people who are approaching me. Now, if we can just catch up on the money side."
Krupp has said she expects the race against Ryan to cost $2 million. Mogk thinks it will be about $750,000. Garin was somewhere in the high six figures. The other two Democratic wannabees -- Thomas and Hebert -- are famous for spending ... um, nothing. (They've never been elected, either.)
Mogk, 41, who was Kenosha Field Organizer for Kerry/Edwards in 2004, says he decided to run this year because "you never know what's going to happen tomorrow. You can say 'I won't run' because of Dr. Thomas, you can say 'I won't run' because Ryan has won before. Well, he's never had a challenge. And yet, he's not bringing more jobs into the district, there are things we could do with environmental issues..."
"I'm here to represent the people of the 1st District. Not the oil companies, not the party."
It's the people of the district who should set a Congressman's agenda, says Mogk (the "g" is silent). He ticks off issues in the order people mention them to him:
1. Universal health care."Everyone's going to pay $500 more a year for food," he says, just because of the extra costs in transportation and packaging. "And in Janesville, 2,400 people will be out of work" because GM's reliance on big cars has run into those high gas prices too.
2. Energy and gas prices
3. The economy and jobs.
Interestingly, Mogk says Iraq hardly comes up in discussions with potential voters. "I would like to see us get out as soon as possible, while protecting the troops," he says. But he also thinks the Iraqi people "want us to stay and help them create Democracy."
Most surprisingly (to me, anyway), Mogk says he agrees with Ryan's lone stand against earmarks. "If everybody in Congress keeps saying yes, we're going to be playing the same game. Eventually, the people will get behind me on this, even if I'm the only one."
Mogk says he has collected about 1,500 signatures; candidates need 1,000 "nominators' signatures" to get on the Democratic Primary ballot, and are permitted to submit up to 2,000. They usually opt for the larger number because anyone who signs more than one candidate's petitions is disqualified if there is a challenge. Deadline for submission is July 8.
More on Mogk HERE. His website is HERE.
More on Krupp and Garin HERE.
More on Thomas and Hebert HERE.
The first four appeared at the 1st District's annual convention in February. Read about it HERE.