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 fifteenth profile in the series is Wisconsin's 7th Congressional District race.
Wisconsin's 7th Congressional District stretches from the central to the northern counties in the state: Ashland, Bayfield, Barron, Burnett, Chippewa, Douglas, Iron, Lincoln, Marathon, Portage, Price, Rusk, Sawyer, Taylor, Washburn, Wood and parts of Clark, Eau Claire, Langlade, Polk, and Oneida counties.
Obey was elected in 1969 by 3.2 points over Walter J. Chilsen to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of 9-term GOP Representative Melvin R. Laird to become Secretary of Defense, making him the youngest member of Congress at that time. Obey successfully defended his seat in each of the next 20 elections, by an average margin of victory of 29.9 points. The closest race Obey faced was during the Republican revolution of 1994, when he beat his GOP contender Scott West by 8.7 points. Obey won a rematch with West in 1996 by 14.1 points and the next four elections by 21.3 points, 26.6 points, 28.4 points, and 76.2 points in 2004 (Obey did not face a GOP challenger in 2004). In 2006 Obey won his 20th consecutive U.S. House race by defeating Republican Nick Reid by 27.2 points.
Obey is the senior member of the Wisconsin delegation to Congress. The Representative is the only Democratic member of the House to have served on the three major economic committees in the Congress: the Budget Committee, the Joint Economic Committee, and the Committee on Appropriations, where Obey is Chairman and serves as a member of all twelve Appropriations Subcommittees.
Republican Dan Mielke, who works in agriculture and farming, is running on a platform of protecting property rights, restoring 'constitutional government,' and making government more transparent.
Obey is the elder statesman of Wisconsin politics and holds very prominent committee assignments in the U.S. House, which (along with 40 years building his name recognition) always makes him an attractive candidate to retain his seat - despite the fact that his district is not overwhelmingly Democratic. George W. Bush actually carried 9 of the 15 counties that are completely contained within the 7th District in 2004: Burnett (by 2.6 points), Chippewa (2.6 points), Lincoln (3.4 points), Marathon (8.1 points), Rusk (2.1 points), Sawyer (5.7 points), Taylor (18.4 points), Washburn (0.6 points), and Wood (4.1 points). John Kerry only won Ashland (by 27.1 points), Bayfield (21.6 points), Douglas (32.2 points), Iron (1.8 points), Portage (13.6 points), and Price (0.4 points).