Dan Kapanke was born in La Crosse and raised on a dairy farm in La Crosse County. He graduated from Luther High School in Onalaska in 1965 and later graduated from University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. He is a veteran and has served in the United States Marine Corps Reserve and the Wisconsin and South Dakota National Guard. He served on the Town of Campbell Board and previously served as State Senator in the 32nd Senate District for more than six years.
Kapanke won election to the Wisconsin State Senate twice, first in 2004 against LaCrosse County Board Supervisor Brad Pfaff, and again in 2008 against La Crosse County Supervisor Tara Johnson.
Kapanke served as chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry, and Higher Education, and was also a member of the committees on Energy, Biotechnology, and Consumer Protection, on Financial Institutions and Rural Issues, and on Workforce Development, Small Business, and Tourism. He was also co-chair of the Joint Survey Committee on Retirement Systems.