Reaction to Rep. Tom Petri’s retirement

FOND DU LAC – The political landscape of Wisconsin’s 6th Congressional District is changing. On Monday, Rep. Tom Petri will formally announce plans to no longer seek re-election.

The longtime Republican Congressman has served for 35 years. When his office announced his decision on Friday, it hit a note for many who respect Petri’s career.

Even some former political opponents say it should come as no surprise why Petri was re-elected so many times.

“It always hurts to see good people leave office,” said 87-year-old Ken Robl of Oshkosh.

Robl has been a part of the Winnebago County board almost as long as Tom Petri has been his Congressman dating back to 1979.

Over the years, Robl has called on Petri to help make improvements to county roads.

“They’ve been very cooperative, his whole organization was,” said Robl.

Wisconsin’s 6th Congressional District covers eight counties and parts of three others, including Winnebago. Petri has served the district since narrowly winning a special election in 1979.

During his time in Washington, the congressman sponsored more than 230 pieces of legislation – only three became law. He has co-sponsored more than 3,500 bills, with more than 300 getting a presidential autograph.

Four times he’s ran unopposed in his 17 reelection bids.

“I’m not surprised by his getting out of this race,” said Peg Lautenschlager, a democratic challenger of Petri’s from the 1992 elections.

“I don’t remember the exact numbers,” said Lautenschlager of the results. “But it was close.”

The closest race since Petri was first elected.

“Was the Democratic party looking for you, to bring you in to try and unseat him?” asked FOX 11’s Bill Miston of the former Fond du Lac state representative and Wisconsin Attorney General.

“Well, clearly we wanted to unseat him,” she replied.

Lautenschlager says she and Petri disagree on all sorts of political issues, but spoke admirably of his character.

“He is one of those kind of, old-school Republicans who has a sense of appreciation for government and its institutions and recognizes that getting along with people of different viewpoints was a way in which you could make government work better.”

Lautenschlager says if another Republican – and not a Democrat – ends up filling Petri’s shoes, she would like to see it be someone similar in nature to him.

Petri will officially announce his retirement Monday in Neenah. Two Republican state lawmakers have said they will run for Petri’s seat.

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