Born on August 14, 1964, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Mark Pocan earned a BA degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1986. Since 1988 he has been the proprietor of Budget Signs & Specialties, a company that custom-produces all manner of promotional products, banners, apparel, etc. After serving on the Dane County Board of Supervisors from 1991-96, Pocan, a Democrat, was a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly from 1999-2013. In 2012 he won election to Wisconsin's 2nd Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, replacing Rep. Tammy Baldwin when she was elected to the United States Senate. Pocan continues to serve in the House, where he is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
In the early 2000s, Pocan spoke several times at RadFest, an annual gathering of communists, socialists, and progressive activists in Madison, Wisconsin. At RadFest 2002, for instance, he helped lead a workshop on equitable taxation sponsored by the local Democratic Socialists of America.
In 2006 Pocan was active with the Center for Policy Alternatives, an organization dedicated to helping progressive lawmakers hone their political skills, network with colleagues, and draft legislation to maximum effect.
In 2013 Pocan co-sponsored the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, designed to create a path-to-citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants residing in the U.S.—contingent upon their learning English and passing criminal-background checks. “I believe that congressional inaction on immigration reform is no longer acceptable,” Pocan said that December. “I stand with the families who have been hurt by our broken immigration system, and I urge Congress to take up comprehensive immigration reform legislation before the end of the year.”
Pocan is strongly opposed to Voter ID laws, claiming that they “disenfranchis[e] voters,” “prevent [Americans] from participating fully in our democracy,” and “unfairly burden disadvantaged and minority voters.” In January 2015, Pocan and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) led nearly two-dozen House Democrats in introducing H.J.Res.25, which aimed to “amend the U.S. Constitution to provide all Americans with the affirmative right to vote.” “We have seen constant attempts by some states to erode voting rights and make it harder for citizens to vote,” Pocan said regarding the recent enactment of Voter ID laws in a number of places. “This amendment would affirm the principle of equal participation in our democracy for every citizen. As the world’s leading democracy, we must guarantee the right to vote for all.”
On a variety of additional key issues, Pocan supports:
- affirmative action based on “race, ethnicity, and gender” in public-sector hiring as well as college admissions;
- permitting illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses;
- passage of the DREAM Act, legislation that would make college tuition discounts and a path-to-citizenship available to illegals who initially came to the U.S. as minors;
- penalties other than incarceration for certain non-violent offenders;
- increased public spending on a variety of education-related causes such as Head Start programs, capital improvements to school facilities, the hiring of more teachers, pay raises for teachers, and college tuition assistance;
- the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions;
- a ban on offshore oil drilling;
- 100% public financing for political campaigns;
- a reduction in the U.S. defense budget;
- the destruction of all American nuclear weapons and delivery systems;
- the closure of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center; and
- tax hikes on high-income households.
For an overview of Pocan's voting record in Congress, click here.
Pocan has a close working relationship with the Colombia Support Network (CSN), which seeks to “construct a just social and economic order [in Colombia] using non-violence means.” He formerly served on CSN's advisory board along with such notables as Medea Benjamin, Blase Bonpane, Roy Bourgeois, Noam Chomsky, Thomas Gumbleton, Robert McChesney, and Howard Zinn.
Pocan also has close ties to the Progressive Democrats of America, an organization that has endorsed him politically, and at whose events he has spoken. Yet another avid backer of Pocan is J Street, which endorsed him in his 2014 congressional re-election race.
In May 2015 Pocan was a signatory to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's “Progressive Agenda to Combat Income Inequality.” For a list of additional noteworthy signers, click here.
Pocan is a member of numerous left-wing organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the AFL-CIO, the Human Rights Campaign, the Sierra Club, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Wisconsin Citizen Action.
An open homosexual, Pocan married his his longtime partner, Philip Frank, in Toronto, Canada on November 24, 2006.