Duffy, Kreitlow target economy, jobs in 7th District race
by Meg Jones
As in practically every congressional race throughout the nation, the issues facing the candidates in northern Wisconsin's 7th District are the economy and jobs.
Democratic challenger Pat Kreitlow supports President Barack Obama's health care law, favors extending the tax cuts due to expire at the end of the year for people earning $250,000 or less and supports providing tax incentives to small businesses and encouraging the hiring of veterans as a way to lower unemployment.
U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, a Republican, voted to repeal "Obamacare" and to extend tax cuts for everyone - including high-income earners - and also favors making it easier for businesses to hire veterans.
Duffy, 41, of Weston, is a former Ashland County district attorney. Kreitlow, 48, of Chippewa Falls, served in the state Senate from 2007 to 2011.
Since Duffy won the seat held by Democrat Dave Obey two years ago, the 7th Congressional District's boundaries in central and northwestern Wisconsin have changed based on the 2010 census. It's now considered a district that leans more Republican, and The Hill, a Washington newspaper that focuses on Congress, last year included Duffy in its list of top 10 House members most helped by redistricting.
Duffy's district needed to grow by about 20,000 people to meet the requirement that all eight of Wisconsin's House seats have the same population. The GOP plan shifted roughly 150,000 of Duffy's previous constituents out of the 7th District and replaced them with about 170,000 living in neighboring districts, affecting 13 counties. It carved out of the prior 7th District a sizable Democratic chunk of central Wisconsin, including Portage and eastern Wood counties.
In 2008, under the old boundaries, Obama won almost 56% of the vote in the district.
Duffy has raised $2.3 million for his campaign and as of last week, when third-quarter finance reports were due, he still had $937,000 on hand. Kreitlow has raised far less - almost $1.1 million, with $340,000 left to spend. In addition, Democratic and Republican congressional campaign committees have flooded airwaves with ads.
Duffy grew up in Hayward, competed in lumberjack competitions and appeared on MTV's "Real World." He was district attorney in Ashland County from 2002 until running for Congress in 2010. Kreitlow worked as a journalist at radio stations and anchored the 6 and 10 p.m. news on WEAU-TV before leaving the Eau Claire station in 2005. The next year, he was elected to the Senate, defeating longtime incumbent Dave Zien, and served through 2010, when he was defeated by Terry Moulton.
Both candidates listed the economy, health care and the national debt as key issues in the campaign.
"We need to focus on helping small businesses and Wisconsin businesses and provide them with tax incentives to hire veterans, to provide health care coverage for their workers and to provide partnerships with technical colleges. All good ideas, none of which are being acted upon by this Congress," Kreitlow said.
Duffy, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, sponsored bills freezing the pay of federal employees and banning earmarks. He voted to repeal the health care law and introduced a bill to replace it "with common-sense ideas that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on like competition for insurance, transparency, tort reform and a solution for pre-existing conditions," Duffy said.
Duffy's proposal is to allow people to buy affordable health insurance by forming state-funded pools with federal dollars, but without a federal mandate.
Kreitlow has criticized Duffy for his support of the budget proposal of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) that would replace Medicare for people age 54 or younger with a voucher system. Ryan is the GOP vice presidential nominee.
"I believe we should put Medicare on a more sound financial footing by paying for quality care rather than paying for more procedures. Seniors should be able to negotiate with the government to pay for prescription drugs, something they can't do now," Kreitlow said. "There are many ideas that would make Medicare more solvent. Unfortunately, the Ryan plan would make Medicare a voucher program."
In response, Duffy said Medicare is projected to go broke in a dozen years and something must be done to preserve and protect it. Anyone 55 and older would get Medicare as it now exists and younger people would get a choice to stick with traditional Medicare or what's known as "premium support," Duffy said.
"You can pick a number of different health care options preapproved from Medicare, you can pick a slim or souped-up version and the government will provide dollars for you and your family. That injects choice into the system," Duffy said.
Address: 5805 Pine Terrace, Weston
Occupation: Member, U.S. House.
Elective offices: Elected to the House in 2010.
Other government experience: Ashland County district attorney, 2002-'10.
Education: Marketing degree, St. Mary's University Minnesota; law degree, William Mitchell College of Law.
Family: Married, six children.
Address: 15854 93rd Ave., Chippewa Falls.
Occupation: Former journalist and television anchor.
Elective offices: State senator in Wisconsin's 23rd Senate District, 2007-'11.
Other government experience: None.
Education: Journalism degree, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Family: Married, two children.