Wisconsin 8th District
In 1673, the French Catholic missionary and explorer Jacques Marquette sailed from the open waters of Lake Michigan into what is now Green Bay. He had hoped to find the Northwest Passage to the Pacific. He actually found the Fox River, which leads to Lake Winnebago and, after a not-too-difficult portage, the Wisconsin River, which flows into the Mississippi. Green Bay and the Fox River Valley remained mostly wilderness and Indian country for more than 150 years. But once settled by Europeans, they became, as Father Marquette would have liked, one of the most heavily Catholic parts of the United States. The area has thrived economically, with paper mills, a busy port and high-skill manufacturing in Green Bay and Appleton in the Fox River Valley. While paper products have long been an economic mainstay, the industry has experienced some instability. Low water levels in Lake Michigan in 2007 and 2008 hurt Green Bay’s port traffic, and the recession that began in December 2007 further hampered shipping and also lowered demand for the region’s timber.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
No reference to Green Bay is complete without a mention of professional football’s Packers, owned by 110,000 shareholding Wisconsinites and unlikely ever to move. Under the team’s charter, if the Packers were ever sold, the proceeds would go to the local Sullivan-Wallen American Legion Post 11 “for the purposes of erecting a proper soldier’s memorial.” The city, by far the smallest to have a National Football League franchise, has earned the nickname Titletown for the Packers’ numerous championships. Thirty miles south is Appleton, which has produced a number of famous, and infamous, Americans—novelist Edna Ferber, escape artist Harry Houdini and demagogue Sen. Joseph McCarthy, the central figure in the Red Scare of the 1950s. Both Green Bay and Appleton are growing, thanks in part to booming Hispanic populations. Green Bay’s Latino community has increased from approximately 1,000 people in 1990 to nearly 10,000 today; the city is now more than 10% Hispanic.
The 8th Congressional District of Wisconsin includes Green Bay and the Fox River Valley south to Appleton. It also includes the inland dairy counties and the North Woods, which has hundreds of pine-ringed lakes where city dwellers from Chicago and Milwaukee keep summer homes. The Door County peninsula, which juts out into Lake Michigan, is another popular summer destination that is closer to the big population centers and as a consequence is more upscale, with art galleries, boutiques and restaurants. Politically, this has often been malleable territory and is one of the must-win regions in this traditional swing state. Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush won 52% of the vote here in 2000 and 55% in 2004, but Democrat Barack Obama carried the district with 54% of the vote in 2008.