All the GOP primary action in Wisconsin will be at the congressional level. In the First, incumbent Paul Ryan will face (Segway) Jerry Ryan. The fact his website/Facebook page shows Jeremy Ryan on a Segway should be grounds alone for dismissing him. Enough said...Paul Ryan it is.
In the LaCrosse-Eau Claire based 3rd district, Democratic incumbent Ron Kind is somewhat vulnerable. Wisconsin politics can be volatile at times and this is a "kick the bums out" kind of year. Kind was first elected to this seat in 1996 and the district does have a recent history of flipping back and forth. Cook rates it favorably for the Democrats at +5. He had a close victory in 2010 and the race should be close this year also.
There are two serious Republican candidates of the three running- Karen Mueller and Ken Van Doren. The other is Tony Kurtz. For my money I believe that Karen Mueller would make the better conservative choice. Her views on the issues of interest are well thought out and conservative. Ken Van Doren would not make a bad choice either, but if everything is equal ideologically, it makes sense to take the "war on women" meme off the table by actually running an actual woman. That is where Mueller comes in.
As possible as winning the 3rd is, GOP chances in the Milwaukee-based 4th District are dismal. Currently occupied by Democratic incumbent Gwen Moore, it would take a sea-change in ideological shifts to unseat her. The two GOP choices are David King who ran for state secretary of state in 2010 amid rape charges and Dan Sebring who was roundly defeated by Moore in 2010 and 2012. The third time is not a charm here, but Dan Sebring is the better choice.
Tom Petri, the Republican incumbent in the 6th District located in the eastern part of the state north of Milwaukee, is retiring this year. This district is rated +5 Republican. Two somewhat conservative candidates have emerged- state senator Joe Liebham and Glenn Grothman. The latter is considered the most conservative member of the state legislature and a quick survey of his votes would indicate such. Two other candidates- Tom Denow and Duey Stroebel are also in the mix. However, this writer believes this race will come down to Liebham and Grothman. In terms of ideology, Grothman has been a major proponent of Scott Walker's reforms in the state and has even argued that the Governor should go further. In the end, one has to consider electability besides ideology here. As stated before, Cook rates this district +5 for the GOP.
Petri was first elected in 1979 and only twice since he won with less than 60% of the vote in a general election. His popularity in the 6th was such that the Democrats did not run opposition four times during his tenure. Obviously, this is a transitional year and the Democrats will be looking to this district to possibly pick up a seat. The question then becomes whether it is in the best interests of the GOP to have a Petri-like candidate run this year or someone more conservative. Petri's long tenure in the House has come under criticism in some conservative areas, especially his many pro-union votes. He has also sponsored many multi-billion dollar transportation funding bills. He is also a member of the moderate GOP group- the Tuesday Morning Caucus. In fact, in terms of bill sponsorship he has a lot in common with Eric Cantor.
With the Democrats having decided on Mark Harris, a Winnebago County Executive, this will be a closely watched race. Most pundits rate this as "Likely Republican" indicating somewhere near a 75% chance of success. Obviously, given its Cook PVI rating coupled with the fact it is an open race, it is not a "solid Republican" race. This is also expected to be an expensive race. Unfortunately, this writer can access no data on fundraising to date for the candidates.
The Winnebago County League of Women Voters held a forum for the candidates on July 21st, but both Liebham and Grothman refused to attend since they support Wisconsin's pending voter photo ID law which the LWV is blocking with a lawsuit. That gives them both points in my book. In the end, however, if I had to pick one it would be Joe Liebham.
In the northern-based 7th District, GOP incumbent Sean Duffy will face a primary challenge from Don Raihala who also ran in the primary in this district in 2010 and obviously lost. This district is less Republican than the 6th. But, Duffy is a moderate Republican and well-liked by his constituents. Given the unsteady nature of the race in the 6th, it would be foolish to endorse someone else in this race. A Duffy candidacy practically guarantees a victory in November and winning/keeping Republican seats is the first priority. Hence, my endorsement would go to Sean Duffy.