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Wisconsin Republican Petri Runs from Record, Weighs Future

After decades in Washington, Petri's moderate record hurts him

He’s been in Washington for nearly 35 years and in that time he’s amassed a record that includes some very liberal votes. Congressman Tom Petri (R) hails from Wisconsin’s 6th Congressional District, and since his first few re-election campaigns he’s had nothing to worry about.

Until now.

On Thursday, the aging Republican blasted a conservative group – Media Trackers – and myself for daring to expose his support of a single-payer option for healthcare reform. The Congressman’s statement sounded a desperate note as he tried to twist what can only be described as a liberal position and make it sound conservative.

In 2009, Petri voted on the House Education and Labor Committee to approve an amendment offered by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) to allow states to opt-out of ObamaCare if – and only if – they established a single-payer system. Democrats in the House later removed the amendment from the Affordable Care Act when it got to the floor.

“What I support is the conservative principle of federalism,” Petri wrote Thursday. “If Brian Sikma doesn’t support states’ rights, that’s fine, but I want to set the record straight.”

Telling states they can escape ObamaCare by establishing a state-funded takeover of healthcare isn’t federalism. As the Heritage Foundation pointed out at the time, “It is also worth noting that the Committee did not provide for any other policy option for states, including free market options, except the adoption of a state-based system of socialized medicine.”

I’m not running for Congress – and I’m a firm believer in the 10th Amendment – but Media Trackers isn’t going to stop exposing Petri’s questionable voting record. He may run from his record, but he can’t hide from it.

Even after casting his committee vote, Petri doubled down on his support for a single-payer healthcare reform option. “I am open to government plans, and even single-payer, on the state level,” he wrote in an editorial for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“I did support the public option on the uh, the state basis,” he told a liberal video tracker outside of a townhall event in his district. “If the state gets it right we can copy them.”

Even President Barack Obama ran away from his own previous support of a single-payer healthcare option during the legislative battle over ObamaCare. But Congressman Tom Petri thought the concept was good enough to be offered to the states as their only escape route from ObamaCare.

Here in Wisconsin, Petri has been described as a “genial person” but he’s been missing in action on a lot of the big issues being debated in Washington. While the Badger State has produced its fair share of political figures in the national spotlight – Sen. Ron Johnson, Rep. Paul Ryan, Gov. Scott Walker – Petri has, notably, only made news recently for owning stock in Oshkosh Corp. (a defense contractor in his district) while pushing the Pentagon to continue to buy the company’s products.

A regular member of the left-leaning Tuesday Group of Republicans on Capitol Hill, Petri collects money from the group’s PAC. So far this cycle, the Tuesday Group PAC and Main Street Partnership PAC (ex-Congressman Steve LaTourette’s anti-Club for Growth group) have each given him $5,000.

Petri has roughly $1 million in his campaign war chest, but he may be getting nervous. On Thursday conservative GOP state Sen. Glen Grothman announced he will challenge Petri in the August primary.

Two other conservatives, businessman John Hiller – who used to be Gov. Walker’s campaign treasurer – and state Rep. Duey Stroebel (also a successful businessman) are mulling a possible bid. Both Hiller and Stroebel could pour some of their own financial resources into the race.

A GOP source tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Petri is probably 50-50 on running again versus retiring.

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