Grothman says he'll challenge US Rep. Tom Petri

State Sen. Glenn Grothman, left, and US Rep. Tom Petri
State Sen. Glenn Grothman, left, and US Rep. Tom Petri

It appears there will be a Republican primary in east-central Wisconsin in a race for the U.S. House of Representatives.

State Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, announced Thursday morning that he will run for the seat currently held by Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac.

Petri has represented the 6th Congressional District for 35 years.

"I'm frustrated with what's going on at the national level, and after serving in the state legislature for about 20 years, I again and again find problems we have that the state cannot solve," said Grothman.

Grothman does not currently live in the district. He says if he won, he would move about 14 miles from West Bend to Campbellsport, which is in the district.

Congressman Petri has been elected 18 times, winning most races easily.

Petri's campaign spokesman said he was unavailable for an interview Thursday, but he did release a statement.

"My record of pragmatic conservatism will speak for itself. I respect Glenn and the work he's done at the state level. I will run a strong campaign and I expect to win in August and November," said Petri.

The 6th Congressional District includes parts of 11 counties. FOX 11 asked Grothman how he plans to win in a large district where he lacks the name recognition that Petri has.

"I realize that a lot of people would consider me an underdog, and sometimes I think of myself as an underdog, but when I get around the district, a lot of people are looking for a change, and hopefully I'll be that person," said Grothman.

Charley Jacobs, a political science professor at St. Norbert College, says Grothman needs to get a jump start.

"He's got to raise a lot of money, he's got to promote his name, and he's got to promote that name as an alternative to Petri," said Jacobs.

Jacobs says Petri has been popular with voters because he is a moderate.

"He's willing to compromise, willing to consider alternatives to Republican policy," he said.

No Democrats have registered to run for the seat. Bob Schweder, the Democratic Party's chair of the 6th Congressional District, expects someone will be on November's ballot.

"We're in the process of talking to a number of people. We have been, not just because we heard somebody was running against Petri," said Schweder.

The deadline to file nomination papers is June 2. Primary elections will be held August 12.

The state Republican Party says it backs Petri. Grothman says he expected that.

At least two other Republicans are considering challenging Petri, including State Rep. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, and John Hiller, a former staff member for Governor Walker.