IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Why Petri's retirement matters

The electoral circumstances surrounding Rep. Tom Petri's (R-Wis.) retirement make his district one to watch.
A woman casts her vote at a polling station on Nov. 6, 2012 in Sugar Creek, Wis.
A woman casts her vote at a polling station on Nov. 6, 2012 in Sugar Creek, Wis.
Something interesting always seems to come up late on a Friday afternoon. In the world of campaign politics, this qualifies.

Republican congressman Tom Petri of Wisconsin says he will retire after more than 30 years in Congress. In a statement on Friday, the congressman says he will make a formal announcement in his district on Monday on his plans not to seek re-election. Petri is considered one of the more moderate Republicans in the House and was first elected in 1979.... He has easily won re-election in his Republican-leaning district in east central Wisconsin.

It's worth noting that Petri is actually quite conservative, but seems "moderate" in large part because his so many of his House Republican colleagues have moved to such an extreme. The Club for Growth scorecard, for example, gave him a 77% rating last year, leaving him further to the right than most GOP House members. Heritage Action awarded him a 68%, suggesting his voting record is slightly more conservative than Paul Ryan's.
A centrist he isn't.
That said, Petri's 6th district in Wisconsin is at least somewhat competitive -- Obama narrowly defeated McCain here in 2008 -- and it stands to reason the DCCC will make an effort to turn this into a legitimate race this fall, which wouldn't have happened if the incumbent sought another term.
What's more, the number of retirements is still steadily growing, and has nearly reached a two-decade high.
But that's not the interesting part. Rather, what stands out about Petri's announcement is the timing -- and his possible successor.
Up until fairly recently, it was generally assumed the GOP congressman was on track for another re-election bid. But just eight days ago, Petri was thrown a curveball: state Sen. Glenn Grothman announced he would take on the incumbent in a Republican primary.
And who's state Sen. Glenn Grothman? I'm glad you asked.

Grothman has made a name for himself championing conservative causes. He sponsored legislation that repealed the state's Equal Pay Enforcement Act, fought for a seven-day work week, proposed a bill that would have considered single parenthood "a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect" and argued that public employees should have to work on MLK Day.  Last year, he said Kwanzaa is a fake holiday that "almost no black people today care about"

Right Wing Watch put together a list of Grothman's "most outrageous moments," and it's a jarring greatest-hits package. The guy justifies the pay gap, for example, by arguing that "money is more important for men" than women and has expressed concern that gay people will use sex-ed classes to recruit teenagers.
A week after he launched a primary bid, the longtime incumbent headed for the exits.
With Petri out, Grothman will probably have some primary challengers of his own, but if he's the Republican nominee this year, and the DCCC can recruit a credible Democratic candidate, it could quickly turn into a race worth watching.