MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The jostling for a pair of open congressional seats in Wisconsin stepped up pace on Monday, with one Republican state senator indicating that he’s poised to enter the race in northern Wisconsin, and two others saying they won’t run.
Also, the 25-year-old son of former Gov. Scott Walker broke his silence about his possible first bid for office in the suburban Milwaukee congressional district.
Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, 76, is retiring at the end of his term next year and won’t seek re-election in the 5th Congressional District that covers suburbs north and west of Milwaukee. Fellow Republican Rep. Sean Duffy, who represents northern Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District, is resigning on Sept. 23 to be with his family ahead of the birth of his ninth child, who Duffy said has been diagnosed with a heart condition.
Because Duffy is resigning, a special election will be called, likely for early next year, to fill his seat. Gov. Tony Evers has yet to announce exactly when it will be. Whoever runs to replace Sensenbrenner will face an August 2020 primary ahead of the general election in November.
Both districts are solidly Republican, leading to many in the party to weigh runs.
Sen. Tom Tiffany appeared ready to officially get in the race for the 7th District, with a “special announcement” planned on Tuesday. Tiffany was to travel the district with seven stops over two days.
He announced that shortly after fellow Republican state Sen. Jerry Petrowski, of Marathon, said he won’t run to replace Duffy. Petrowski said in a statement that while he would “relish the chance to overcome the constant gridlock in Washington,” he believes he can have a greater impact if he remains in the state Senate. Petrowski, 69, was first elected to the Legislature in 1998.
State Sen. Dale Kooyenga, of Brookfield, meanwhile said he won’t run in the 5th District to replace Sensenbrenner for similar reasons. Kooyenga, 40, also said he feels he can best serve by remaining in the state Senate. He was first elected to the state Assembly in 2010 and to the Senate in 2018.
Even with those two out, many others are still weighing bids. One of them in the 5th Congressional District is Matt Walker, the son of the former two-term governor. Scott Walker said Friday that his son was seriously considering a bid and Matt Walker put out his first comments Sunday about that possibility.
“The sacrifices of public office may be great, but the opportunity for my generation to step up and provide a new perspective is even greater,” Matt Walker wrote in a Facebook post. “21st-century problems require 21st-century solutions.”
He said he was praying about the decision while discussing it with family, friends, neighbors and colleagues.
“I am exploring this potential campaign because there are plenty of Republicans, myself included, that will stand for lower taxes and higher standards. Yet I am uniquely positioned to provide a fresh perspective on the 21st-century problems facing our nation,” Matt Walker said.
The list of other Republicans considering a run in that district is long. It includes former U.S. Senate candidates Leah Vukmir and Kevin Nicholson; state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald; Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow; U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson spokesman Ben Voelkel; state Sen. Chris Kapenga; state Rep. Adam Neylon; and Republican activist Vince Trovato.
Democrat Tom Palzewicz, an entrepreneur and Navy veteran who lost to Sensenbrenner in 2018, is also running.
In addition to Tiffany in the 7th Congressional District, other potential Republican candidates include former Americans for Prosperity leader Luke Hilgemann and state Rep. Romaine Quinn, of Barron.
On the Democratic side, those considering a bid include state Rep. Nick Milroy, of South Range; state Sen. Janet Bewley, of Mason; former state Sen. Pat Kreitlow, of Chippewa Falls; and Wausau attorney Christine Bremer Muggli.