Weekend Transitions: Wisconsin’s Petri Out; New Hampshire’s Brown In

Veteran Wisconsin Congressman Tom Petri (R-WI-6) originally elected in a 1979 special election, meaning he is ninth in House seniority, joined the long line of retiring House members as the weekend began. Petri formally announced that he will not seek a 19th term in November. The development means that 44 House seats will be open in 2014, in addition to the seven districts that have been filled in special elections since the 113th Congress began.

Last week, conservative state Sen. Glenn Grothman launched a Republican primary challenge to the congressman, and it is unclear whether the intra-party challenge influenced Petri’s decision to retire. Reported to be considering entering the now open Republican primary contest are state Assemblyman Duey Stroebel, Ozaukee County Supervisor Joe Dean, and John Hiller, the former campaign treasurer for Gov. Scott Walker (R).

The 6th District sits between Milwaukee and Green Bay, borders Lake Michigan on the east, and then stretches westward to central Wisconsin. It’s major population centers are the cities of Oshkosh, Sheboygan, Fond du Lac, Manitowoc, and Neenah. Mitt Romney carried the 6th District with 53 percent of the vote in 2012, but in 2008, President Obama nipped John McCain here by a slight 49.4-49.3 percent margin. Petri serves on the Transportation & Infrastructure and Education and the Workforce committees. Despite his seniority rank, Petri has not chaired a full committee.

Scott Brown: New Hampshire Senate

Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) is now an official statewide candidate in New Hampshire and has already released his first television ad. At the same time two polls became public, each showing a varying lead for incumbent Jeanne Shaheen (D).

Public Policy Polling, conducting a survey for the League of Conservation Voters (April 7-8; 1,034 registered voters), finds Sen. Shaheen ahead by a 49-41% count, significantly beyond the margin of polling error. The two candidates’ favorability scores are vastly different, however. Sen. Shaheen has a 47:46% positive to negative job approval ratio, whereas Brown records a poor 35:49% rating.

In a similar time frame, the University of New Hampshire (April 1-9; 507 New Hampshire adults; 387 registered New Hampshire voters), finds a tighter 45-39 percent ballot test, and much different favorability scores for both individuals. According to UNH, the senator has a much better 49:35 percent job approval index, and Brown records a significantly improved 39:29 percent positive to negative personal favorability score.

Though the ballot tests are in the same relative range, the favorability ratings for both candidates are widely divergent. Public Policy Polling typically skews negative on most job and personal favorability ratios, so it is not surprising that they found a similar result in this case. Though UNH has not proven to be a particularly reliable pollster, their favorability ratings seem more believable than the consistently upside down scores that PPP routinely records.

The two polls are telling us that this campaign has the strong potential of becoming a highly competitive, and particularly so when considering the radical swings that New Hampshire voters have ventured upon since the 2006 election. No state has swung more widely or so thoroughly as the Granite State. Considering their recent electoral history, any outcome is possible here in 2014.

Brown opens his ad campaign again featuring the truck that he made famous during his Massachusetts campaigns. The positive ad is attached for your viewing.

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