Thirty-five year incumbent Congressman Tom Petri is beatable in an August primary. He is beginning to see a glimpse of the scrutiny that he has largely escaped until this year. While sitting on $1 million plus in campaign cash, Petri should realize he is facing a hurricane of opposition and the storm is just starting.
Back when I worked in DC from 2003-2006, one of the main issues among conservatives on the Hill was how out of touch Members of Congress were from the world outside the "beltway." Flash forward 10 years, Tom Petri still thinks that the way to win elections is through raising money in DC and earmarking money for Wisconsin, which means he has significantly contributed to our country’s $17.5+ Trillion Deficit. He hasn’t had a competitive election since 1992 when Peg Lautenschlager came within 6 points, so his campaign skills are certainly rusty.
Some have suggested that voters in the 6th Congressional aren’t angry enough with Petri to vote against him. But a major cause is that Petri hasn’t had much scrutiny on his record. Over the course of a primary election, his opponent will seek to create contrast between the two. Moreover, the media and other interested parties will take a greater interest in what exactly Tom Petri has been doing in DC. The stories that have been written recently about Petri’s votes and positions from the past just weren’t that interesting before this year with the prospect and reality of a primary.
To recap what was highlighted from Petri’s record recently, Gannett Media exposedhow Petri has advocated more government spending for certain organizations, in which he owned stock. Media Trackers discussed how Petri is a big fan of high speed rail. They also showed how Petri has consistently advocated and voted for more government involvement in healthcare, even voting for single payer healthcare. The fact that a sitting Member of Congress responded directly to Media Trackers reveals how afraid he is of his healthcare positions. Media Trackers also pointed out how much money Petri has received from unions who spent heavily to recall Governor Walker. Wisconsin Reporter thenunderlined the numerous spending measures Petri has supported over the past 35 years, like Cash for Clunkers, Head Start expansion, and Obama’s Stimulus for an Education Jobs Fund. Questions over where Petri actually lives have also arisen. These votes, positions, and questions are only bound to increase over the next several months.
A big sign that Petri is in trouble is that people on the right are not defending him. Back in February, Jerry Bader aptly pointed out that Republicans in Wisconsin were not coming to Petri’s defense following his ethics scandal. That problem is only growing. Since Sen. Grothman announced, most of Petri’s defenders have been liberal bogs. The Liberal blog, Daily Beast, bemoanedthe potential of losing the last Congressional "Rockefeller Republican. " Esquire.com tried to defend Petri through saying his primary is a case study in GOP Cannibalism. Gov Walker has said he is staying out of the race, which has to hurt Petri who was expecting Walker’s help.
It shouldn’t be surprising that Walker would stay out as he and Petri are polar opposite types of Republicans. Walker took on Big Labor, cut spending, and stopped high-speed rail. Petri has received over $400,000 from Big Labor, is known as an earmarker, and loves high speed trains.
The scrutiny over what Tom Petri has done in Washington DC is only going to increase over the coming months. His associations with liberal Republicans, votes for more deficit spending, and more will be examined. Conservatives will become more and more angry at how Petri has failed to stop the problems in DC, and has even contributed to them. Petri’s moderate voting record creates an opportunity for a conservative to beat him in a primary.
Matt Batzel is the Wisconsin Executive Director for American Majority and resides in the 6th Congressional District.