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Election Profile: Wisconsin's 6th Congressional District (2008)

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Smart Politics is running a series of election profiles of all the Upper Midwestern U.S. Senate and U.S. House races leading up to the November 4th elections. The series will culminate with Smart Politics' official projections. The fourteenth profile in the series is Wisconsin's 6th Congressional District race.

Candidates:
Republican: Thomas E. Petri (15-term incumbent)
Democrat: Roger A. Kittelson

District Geography:
Wisconsin's 6th Congressional District comprises the east-central counties of the state: Calumet, Dodge, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Manitowoc, Marquette, Sheboygan, Waushara, Winnebago, and parts of Adams and Jefferson counties.

History:
Petri won a special election by just 0.8 points over Democrat Gary R. Goyke in 1979 to fill the vacancy due to the death of seven-term Republican Representative William A. Steiger. Petri won the rematch with Goyke in 1980 by 18.7 points and then won the next 13 elections by an average of 63.7 points - including six elections without major party opposition (all non-presidential election years: 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, and 2006). Petri has only faced one competitive re-election contest - a 5.8-point win over Democratic nominee Peggy A. Lautenschlager in 1992 (the closest U.S. House race in the Badger State that year).

Petri serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Education and Labor Committee. He is one of two Upper Midwestern House members (along with Minnesota Representative Jim Ramstad (MN-03) of the center-right Republican Main Street Partnership (the Partnership, with 44 Representatives, 6 Senators, and 2 governors, bills itself as a coalition building force to promote policies that are supportive of conservation and preservation of our natural resources, accountability in the education system, maintaining a strong national defense, increasing economic growth, encouraging renewable energy resources, reforming Social Security, creating more affordable health care, creating transparency and accountability in Congress, and creating American competitiveness through free and fair trade.

Kittelson, who works in agribusiness, is campaigning for fair trade, bringing the troops home from Iraq, expanding health care coverage, repealing No Child Left Behind, balancing the federal budget, and eliminating the federal debt.

Outlook:
All nine counties that are entirely contained within the 6th Congressional voted for George W. Bush in 2004 - and six of them by double-digit margins: Calumet (17.5 points), Dodge (23.8 points), Fond du Lac (26.6 points), Green Lake (28.2 points), Manitowoc (5.3 points), Marquette (9.6 points), Sheboygan (10.9 points), Waushara (13.3 points), and Winnebago (6.3 points). Petri's moderate Republican credentials in this conservative stronghold of the state will serve him well in what is shaping up to be a big year for the Congressional Democrats.

Previous post: Humphrey Institute Candidate Forums: Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District
Next post: Election Profile: Wisconsin's 7th Congressional District (2008)

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Remains of the Data

Gender Equality in the US House: A State-by State Quarter-Century Report Card (1989-2014)

A study of 5,325 congressional elections finds the number of female U.S. Representatives has more than tripled over the last 25 years, but the rate at which women are elected to the chamber still varies greatly between the states.

Political Crumbs

Small Club in St. Paul

Mark Dayton is one of just three Minnesotans ever elected to three different statewide offices. Dayton, of course, had previously served as State Auditor (1991-1995) and U.S. Senator (2001-2007) before winning the governorship in 2010. At that time, he joined Republicans Edward Thye and J.A.A. Burnquist on this very short list. Burnquist was elected governor in 1914 but then became governor after the death of Democrat Winfield Hammond in 1915. He then won the gubernatorial elections of 1916 and 1918 and eight terms as attorney general two decades later (1939-1955). Thye was similarly first elected lieutenant governor of the Gopher State and became governor after the resignation of fellow GOPer Harold Stasson in 1943. Thye won one additional full term as governor in 1944 and then two terms to the U.S. Senate (1947-1959). Twenty Minnesotans have been elected to two different statewide offices.


Respect Your Elders?

With retirement announcements this year by veteran U.S. Representatives such as 30-term Democrat John Dingell of Michigan, 20-term Democrat George Miller of California, and 18-term Republican Tom Petri of Wisconsin, it is no surprise that retirees from the 113th Congress are one of the most experienced cohorts in recent decades. Overall, these 24 exiting members of the House have served an average of 11.0 terms - the second longest tenure among retirees across the last 18 cycles since 1980. Only the U.S. Representatives retiring in 2006 had more experience, averaging 11.9 terms. (In that cycle, 10 of the 11 retiring members served at least 10 terms, with GOPer Bill Jenkins of Tennessee the lone exception at just five). Even without the aforementioned Dingell, the average length of service in the chamber of the remaining 23 retirees in 2014 is 10.2 terms - which would still be the third highest since 1980 behind the 2006 and 2012 (10.5 terms) cycles.


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