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Grothman Shocks Again With News He'll Run for Congress

Marti Mikkelson

Republican state Sen. Glenn Grothman plans to challenge fellow GOP member and long-time Congressman Tom Petri, this fall.

Grothman has served in the Legislature for 20 years, first in the Assembly; now, in the Senate. He represents several counties north of Milwaukee. His sudden announcement seems to reflect his style.

Grothman says, when he’s not in Madison, he packs his schedule with appearances. Today, he’s mingling with supporters at a benefit for a motorcycle group in West Bend.

"I think this weekend, I’ll be at nine or ten events,” Grothman says.

Grothman prides himself on being one of the most conservative members of the Legislature and fearless, on social issues.

“I was the author of the 24 hour waiting period for abortions. Given that, some women are on the fence, I believe there are a significant number of babies who are alive today who wouldn’t be alive if we didn’t have that 24 hour waiting period,” Grothman says.

Grothman has lent his name to nearly every hot button issue - from abortion restrictions to gun rights to voucher schools. And he has not shied away from proposing divisive legislation. For instance, twice, he’s pushed to legalize the sale of raw milk on farms.

“The more I looked into it, I found tens of thousands of Wisconsin residents love to drink raw milk,” Grothman says.

Grothman says, while hundreds of people came out for hearings on raw milk, his bill never made it to the floor. The same goes for his proposals this year to legalize the use of e-cigarettes in restaurants and allow employers in some industries to adopt a seven-day workweek.

Lance Kirmse has voted for Grothman in every election. He says he applauds the senator’s candor.

“Glenn has always been a straight shooter. He always tells you where he stands from the get go. That’s very much appreciated and I think a lot of people are looking for that in today’s society. They want somebody to stand up and say, yes I’m for this or no, I’m for that without hemming and hawing,” Kirmse says.

Yet, not everyone admires Grothman’s brazen style. He garnered national criticism two years ago, when he authored legislation to repeal Wisconsin’s equal pay law. He argued that the wage gap between men and women was not due to discrimination, but to the fact that money is more important to men. Political satirist Stephen Colbert blasted Grothman.  Gov. Walker ended up signing the bill.

Another measure that caused an uproar, was Grothman’s plan to require the state to publicize risks of single parenthood. He told a committee that those children are more likely to be abused by a significant other. Critics called the bill, a “criminalization” of single parenthood. Brenda Tucci of West Bend called the senator’s comments offensive.

“He could not be more wrong, not just about myself but many other single moms that I know. We work hard to give our children a healthy environment,” Tucci says.

Tucci points out that she chose to keep her baby instead of having an abortion. Another person upset about Grothman’s remarks over the years is Barbara Deters, a retired public school teacher.

“At a recent town hall meeting there was a discussion about food stamps and reduced and free lunches for kids at school. And, Glenn Grothman made the statement that when you give out those handouts, it deteriorates the family, it undermines the family structure, and that’s the kind of statement that is an embarrassment to us that he is our representative,” Deters says.

Deters is one of several people gathered at the office of the Democratic Party of Washington County. Volunteers here have worked to unseat Grothman, including for his support of Act 10 – the Republican law that weakened most public unions. Their efforts have failed. Grothman remains unapologetic, insisting his ideas reflect the mainstream views.

“I think the vast majority of people thought it was wrong when abortion is used, to perform an abortion, an hour after you walked into the clinic. I would hope that the idea of wanting to educate young people about the importance of having a mother and father at home is not out of the mainstream. Let’s hope in this country the next generation realizes that children raised in a nuclear family is better than a child raised with five or six different mother’s boyfriends in the house,” Grothman says.

In a news release Thursday, Grothman called Congressman Petri a “good human being” but one who favors big government. Grothman acknowledges he does not live in Petri’s district but plans to move there.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.