Can Rep. Tom Petri Expect a Primary?

Last week, the non-partisan watchdog Public Citizen requested an ethics investigation of Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI-06) after Gannett revealed that the 17 ½ term Republican of Fond du Lac purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars in Oshkosh Corp. stock and then steered Congress to help the company retain a $3 billion contract with the Defense Department. According to Gannett, the value of Petri’s stock increased by 30%.

Public Citizen Senior Legislative Director Craig Holman told USA Today, "This particular situation certainly merits an investigation, and it would be something that would be appropriate for the Office of Congressional Ethics to take a closer look at."

For the 73 year-old Congressman, an ugly Congressional Ethics investigation may be enough to convince Petri to hang it up. But if not, the presence of an investigation provides a perfect opportunity for a conservative primary challenger.

The ingredients are there. 

The Oshkosh Corp. stock purchase and efforts to retain a massive government contract for the company is the exact type of thing most conservatives hate about Congress. It looks corrupt. It looks selfish. And it’s the type of action representative of someone who has been in Washington too long. Not to mention, it would make for some very compelling TV ads and mail pieces.

The district is firmly conservative. Romney won 53-46 and Petri has not garnered less than 64% in a general election in over a two decades. But, Petri also hasn’t had to work hard in a campaign in a very long time.

Petri is a long-time establishment incumbent. Three of his largest donors in 2012 were labor unions. He prides himself on being a "centrist Republican" and is a member of the moderate Republican Main Street Caucus.

Add in a vetted conservative primary candidate and national conservative groups like Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity, and the Madison Project may jump at the chance to play in Wisconsin and redeem their 2012 U.S. Senate debacle.
 
So who should run? Former head of the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight and Port Washington native Joe Dean would make an excellent candidate. Dean is young, he’s conservative, he’s got deep roots in the community, and the Honor Flight movie has made Dean something of a local celebrity in Southeast Wisconsin.
 
Sources have also told me that State Sen. Glenn Grothman is exploring a primary challenge along with former Scott Walker adviser John Hiller. Hiller's involvement in the Milwaukee County John Doe investigation would seem to make his candidacy unlikely.
 
 
Mary Burke to Deliver Keynote Address for Union Violating Act 10
 
According to the Kenosha Education Association (KEA), Mary Burke will appear as the Keynote speaker at the KEA-REA Legislative Dinner on March 19.

KEA and the Kenosha Unified School District is one of the central battlegrounds in Wisconsin in the continuing fight over Act 10 after the union and school board ratified a contract last Fall and the union announced last week they would begin deducting union dues from paychecks.

Thus far, Mary Burke has been lukewarm and incoherent on Act 10. She says she "disagrees Act 10," then says she thought the pension and healthcare provisions were appropriate. She says she supports the restoration of collective bargaining, but always stops short of saying she would repeal Act 10.

KEA’s role in blatantly challenging and ignoring Act 10 may put Mary Burke on the spot. Does Burke support the efforts of the KEA to deduct dues? Does she endorse the new contract? Does she believe the Colas decision created a window for unions to collectively bargain?

Mary Burke Campaign Panics Over RGA Ad Buy

Last week, the Republican Governors Association (RGA) announced a six figure ad-buy against Mary Burke that will start airing today. Since the announcement, the Burke campaign has sent out three panicked fundraising emails with the subject line "RGA on the Attack."

On Saturday, Burke’s finance director Aaron Fielding announced the goal of raising $42,000 by Tuesday "to combat the attacks funded by Scott Walker’s cronies."

"Unless we quickly get resources together, Wisconsin is only going to hear the right-wing smears," writes Fielding. 
 
On Sunday, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin sent a fundraising email with the subject line "Chris Christie to the Rescue!" in an attempt to tie the RGA money to Gov. Christie.

The panic here is revealing. It suggests that the Burke campaign is sufficiently freaked by the first ad-buy. And with good reason. Last month’s Marquette Poll showed Mary Burke had failed to define herself with 70% unable to give an opinion about her candidacy.If RGA and others begin the air war now, Mary Burke may never get the chance to define herself.

If the Burke campaign is trying to raise $42,000 in the course of just days, it suggests that they were not ready to go up on TV yet. And RGA may have just forced their hand. 

Mary Burke has allegedly pledged $8 million of her own money to the race. And the time for her to put-up or shut-up may be approaching sooner than she hoped.

 

 
Quick Hits
  • Congresswoman Gwen Moore will appear with Mary Burke tonight in Milwaukee at the Ambassador Hotel for a fundraiser. Can we expect the latest rendition of "Hit the Road Scott?"
  • The union-funded Greater Wisconsin Committee (GWC) is backing three candidates in the Tuesday primary for the Kenosha School Board. According to campaign finance reports, the liberal dark money group poured $6,000 on behalf of the KEA-backed candidates. The Kenosha School Board has become a central battleground for Act 10 after the school board ratified a union contract last Fall.
  • State Rep. John Klenke (R-Green Bay) will announce his retirement today. Sources say former candidate for State Senate John Macco may be the first Republican candidate to jump in to fill the seat.
  • DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz will appear in Madison on Wednesday for a high-dollar fundraiser for the Women’s Leadership Forum. Hopefully she’ll be telling donors and potential candidates that Democrats still intend to run on Obamacare this Fall. 
  • Congressman Ron Kind is now promoting the War on Women. A new petition on Kind’s campaign site reads "Stop the War on Women, Start Work on the Economy." Kind has been gathering email addresses with various slogans for months now, including one targeting Sen. Ron Johnson. I suspect Kind has his eye on Sen. Johnson’s seat in 2016.

 

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