One of Wisconsin’s most conservative state lawmakers is running for Congress against an incumbent Republican, saying it’s time for the GOP to act more urgently to reduce government dependency and speak up more loudly for the principles they believe in.
State Sen. Glenn Grothman is a staunch ally of Gov. Scott Walker, most notably in the 2011 efforts to have union members contribute more to their own benefit plans and have the state reform the collective bargaining process. The debate triggered huge protests at the state capitol in Madison and even prompted the Democratic Party state senators to leave the state in an effort to stop the legislation.
The bills ultimately passed and survived a court challenge. Democrats and liberal activists then launched recall efforts against Gov. Walker and several GOP state senators, including Grothman. Walker, Grothman and most Republicans won their recall races, although a small number of GOP members were voted out of office.
Now, Grothman is challenging sitting Republican Rep. Tom Petri, who was first elected in 1978 and is running for a 19th term in the House.
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with state Sen. Glenn Grothman:
Grothman said it's time time for Republicans to have a much greater sense of urgency in Washington if the U.S. wants to avoid the financial abyss.
"Like a lot of people, I've been dissatisfied with what's going on in Washington and I feel the Republicans haven't been doing an articulate enough job of explaining to the public what has to be done. Not just the huge deficit, which is going to put our children and grandchildren deeply in debt forever, but I'm particularly concerned about the culture of dependency," said Grothman.
"The number of people on food stamps, the number of people on low-income housing, the number of people on disability just keeps spiraling out of control. Quite frankly, it was spiraling out of control when Republicans were in charge. Our country is going to be sunk permanently if that becomes the conventional lifestyle in America," he said.
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Grothman said he also wants to the federal government butt out of many transportation decisions and other local and state issues and he believes Rep. Petri has not been vocal enough in standing up for the people of Wisconsin and for local leaders.
"Congressman Petri is a moderate. He's perceived to be for more government spending. He's certainly an advocate for more government involvement in education, and that's a little bit disappointing as well," said Grothman, noting Petri's support for "No Child Left Behind" during the early months of the George W. Bush administration.
Petri holds a lifetime rating of 77 out of 100 from the American Conservative Union. Club for Growth puts him at 73. Heritage Action gives the lowest rating at 64. Votes that hurt Petri in the scores during 2013 include support for the Farm Bill and the Ryan-Murray budget deal. He also voted against a conservative plan that promised to balance the budget within four years. In an earlier Congress, he also backed the Cash for Clunkers program.
However, the congressman has also cast many votes opposing the Obama agenda in recent years on issues ranging from the stimulus to Obamacare to cap and trade and lifting the ban on homosexuals serving in the military.
Petri also opposed the Dodd-Frank financial sector regulatory legislation, the 2008 Wall Street bailout known as TARP and the DREAM Act. He voted in favor of lifting offshore drilling restrictions and for removing federal funds for Planned Parenthood.
Asked specifically about Petri's opposition to the stimulus and Obamacare, Grothman said that was good but not enough.
"Well, he voted with the other Republicans on those, but l think we need a little more fight in the Republican Party. When I get around the district, I do sense dissatisfaction there. I'm going to have to rely on that because Congressman Petri has about a million dollars in the bank. So when I start as a challenger with nothing and he's got a million dollars, I'm obviously the underdog and it's going to be an uphill climb," he said.
Grothman was first elected to the Wisconsin state Senate in 2005 and now serves as the assistant majority leader. He said anyone who has followed his service in Madison will know exactly how he would approach his job in Washington if he is elected to Congress.
"I've had a long track record of probably being the most outspoken conservative in the Republican state Senate and maybe the whole Legislature," said Grothman, who argued the national GOP could take a lesson on political determination from how Wisconsin Republicans acted in the face of fierce political and media opposition during the debates over organized labor benefits and collective bargaining.
"In Madison, our legislators did draw a line in the sand, and they weren't afraid to do it. We took Wisconsin from being a state deeply in debt to a state that's running surpluses and cutting taxes. If we're going to turn around Washington, we need the same sort of courage and outspoken plain talking that we had in Madison," said Grothman, who added that he would embrace the label of a tea-party candidate in the race.
The Republican primary is set for Aug. 12. In addition to his money advantage, Petri has faced few competitive challengers. His 62 percent of the vote in 2012 was his tightest race in 20 years and only twice has he won by less than 10 points. Grothman recognizes the challenges but says money isn't the only factor in this campaign.
"We're just going to have to rely on the grassroots. To a certain extent, you can make up for a lack of money with a lot of volunteers, going door-to-door (and) letters to the editor. But obviously I'm going to have to rely on the people who have encouraged me to run to follow up with some checks as well," Grothman said.
The year 2010 was a banner year for conservatives in Wisconsin. In addition to Walker's win, Republicans won control of both chambers of the Legislature and businessman Ron Johnson easily defeated incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold. Grothman believes the 2014 election results will look very similar.
"I think it's going to be another year like 2010," he said. "Due to Barack Obama and Obamacare, I think the public is very dissatisfied with the Democrats, and I think Democrats are kind of dispirited with their own candidates."