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Wisconsin Dem Says He Can Test House GOP Veteran — B’Gosh
By Jessica Benton Cooney, CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY
Wisconsin Republican Rep. Tom Petri has now served more than 28 years in the House, and the last time Democrats in his 6th Congressional District waged a serious effort to unseat him was in 1992. In fact, Democrats in 2006 did not even field a challenger — the sixth time that has happened in the 15 elections dating to Petri’s first victory in an April 1979 special election.
Democrat Roger Kittelson, a dairy marketing specialist, has entered next year’s race against Petri and contends he should not be counted out.
Kittelson enters the race with little experience as a candidate: His only past run was a defeat in a state House race in 1982 in his native Minnesota. By comparison, Peggy Lautenschlager, the Democrat who held Petri to 53 percent of the vote back in 1992, was a state House member and former county district attorney, who would go on to serve between 2003 and 2007 as Wisconsin’s first woman attorney general.
But Kittelson can’t be accused of not aiming high. His Republican opponent in his 1982 candidate debut was then the Speaker of the Minnesota House.
“I think I can win,” said Kittelson, who in an interview with CQPolitics.com said his determination to run is attributable “in part because of the direction of the country,” and also, he said, because “Petri tends to support the president’s lack of direction on the war in Iraq.”
Kittelson, who lives in the small town of Lomira, calls himself a conservative Democrat and says he plans to tout his support of affordable health care and a balanced federal budget.
Another Democrat from the district, state Rep. Gordon Hintz, noted that Republican Mark Green — a former four-term representative of the neighboring 8th Congressional District — barely carried the 6th District with 51 percent of the vote in his unsuccessful 2006 bid to unseat Democratic Gov. James E. Doyle.
Hall, Petri’s 2004 foe and now chairman of the Winnebago County Democratic Party, said there has been a huge political swing in the district that he suggested might be following a national change. “People don’t want to be Republican anymore,” he said. “Republicans don’t even want to be Republican, people here are clamoring for a change. The numbers are more on our side than they ever have been.”