An Anti-Kwanzaa, Anti-Water Sanitation Lawmaker in Wisconsin Is Running for Congress

He could be a serious challenger.

A vanity license plate is seen on a car beonging to republican Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman outside of the Wisconsin State Capitol on March 4, 2011 in Madison, Wisconsin.
National Journal
Emma Roller
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Emma Roller
April 3, 2014, 9:56 a.m.

Wis­con­sin state Sen. Glenn Groth­man has the most re­cog­niz­able car at the state Cap­it­ol. That’s be­cause of his van­ity plates: “TAX CUTR.”

Now, Groth­man wants to take those plates na­tion­al. He an­nounced his plans to run a primary cam­paign against Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., in the state’s 6th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict, as re­por­ted by the Mil­wau­kee Journ­al Sen­tinel:

On Thursday, Groth­man said he would con­duct an is­sue-ori­ented cam­paign. He said he would cam­paign against the Af­ford­able Care Act, and said Petri, who voted against the le­gis­la­tion, “im­plied he didn’t mind a big­ger gov­ern­ment role in health care.”

Petri, who has rep­res­en­ted his con­ser­vat­ive dis­trict since 1979, is mild but well-liked. He’s brought home fed­er­al funds for roads and bridges, and ad­voc­ated for loc­al busi­nesses. In the two Re­pub­lic­an primar­ies he’s faced in his ten­ure, he’s won both with at least 82 per­cent of the vote. He also has a $1 mil­lion war chest.

But Groth­man is not a joke can­did­ate, nor should Petri’s cam­paign treat him as such. Petri, who is 73, hails from the golden age of mod­er­ate con­ser­vat­ism — a brand that’s be­come in­creas­ingly passé in the mod­ern GOP.

Mean­while, in his 21 years in the state Le­gis­lature, Groth­man has nev­er shied from de­noun­cing gov­ern­ment over­reach and a per­ceived lib­er­al in­doc­trin­a­tion through in­sti­tu­tions like the Uni­versity of Wis­con­sin and pub­lic-em­ploy­ee uni­ons.

“I think the col­leges of edu­ca­tion are of a left­ist bent,” he told Isth­mus in 2011. “I think the teach­ers uni­on is of a left­ist bent, and I think to a cer­tain ex­tent their ideas are pushed on the teach­ers [and later stu­dents]. And it’s what’s taught in the cul­ture — movies, TV.”

For Groth­man, lib­er­al­ism — or rather, left­ism — has per­vaded all areas of mod­ern cul­ture. In the past, Groth­man has de­cried Kwan­zaa, call­ing the hol­i­day a lib­er­al scheme. “Of course, al­most no black people today care about Kwan­zaa — just white left-wing­ers who try to shove this down black people’s throats in an ef­fort to di­vide Amer­ic­ans,” Groth­man wrote in 2012.

He’s also voiced his ob­jec­tion to equal-pay laws, say­ing pay dis­crim­in­a­tion against wo­men isn’t a real prob­lem. His jus­ti­fic­a­tion? “You could ar­gue that money is more im­port­ant for men,” he told the Daily Beast. I think a guy in their first job, maybe be­cause they ex­pect to be a bread­win­ner someday, may be a little more money-con­scious. To at­trib­ute everything to a so-called bi­as in the work­place is just not true.”

And in 2011, Groth­man sponsored a bill to do away with mu­ni­cip­al wa­ter dis­in­fec­tion. For con­text: in 1993, a Crypto­spor­idi­um out­break in the Mil­wau­kee area’s wa­ter sup­ply led to the deaths of at least 69 people.

Still, Groth­man has rock-sol­id con­ser­vat­ive cre­den­tials with­in the state, tak­ing on the role of hype man for Gov. Scott Walk­er’s strict voter-ID law. In an in­ter­view with MS­N­BC last fall, Groth­man said voters who struggle with the state’s new voter-ID laws prob­ably didn’t care about vot­ing.

“Between [early vot­ing], mail ab­sent­ee, and vot­ing the day of elec­tion, you know, I mean any­body who can’t vote with all those op­tions, they’ve really got a prob­lem,” Groth­man told MS­N­BC. “I really don’t think they care that much about vot­ing in the first place, right?”

Groth­man is no stranger to mud­sling­ing polit­ics. So Petri bet­ter watch out — or at least start court­ing Wis­con­sin’s Kwan­zaa cel­eb­rants.

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