News from around Wisconsin at 5:28 a.m. CDT

Saturday, April 12, 2014

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Longtime Wisconsin GOPRep. Tom Petri to retire

MILWAUKEE (AP) - U.S. Rep. Tom Petri announced Friday that he plans to retire, ending a 35-year career as a moderate Republican from east-central Wisconsin.

Petri, who would have faced re-election in November, will make a formal announcement Monday at a town hall meeting in his district in Neenah, according to his office.

The 73-year-old has been popular in his district, generally winning elections with at least 60 percent of the vote. But he’s a centrist Republican at a time when his party has been moving to the right, and he would have faced a rare primary election against at least one conservative state lawmaker.

Last week his spokesman, Lee Brooks, said Petri would run for at least one more term. Brooks said Friday the congressman’s reversal was a result of “several factors” and that Petri would elaborate Monday.

Petri had nearly $1 million in campaign funds and was well-known in his district. He wasn’t especially prominent on the national stage, but his strength was in securing funds for Wisconsin projects such as roads and bridges.

He generally won elections with ease in his Republican-leaning district. He faced only two Republican primaries since 1996, and he had at least 82 percent support in each.

But this year was going to be more of a challenge. State Sen. Glenn Grothman, a conservative known for his outspoken attacks on affirmative action, welfare benefits, early sex education and abortion, announced last week that he’d mount a run against Petri.

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In Iowa, Ryan says budget a step toward GOP unity

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) - Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan told an Iowa audience Friday that his party can and must come together, and he held out his recently passed budget plan as a sign of growing GOP unity.

Although blocs of Republicans object to aspects of the plan passed Thursday in the U.S. House, Ryan said it embodies the principles upon which the nation was founded.

“Some people wanted to go further, some people thought it went too far. The point is we unified around these common principles in a plan,” the Wisconsin congressman told reporters after headlining a state party dinner in Cedar Rapids. “That’s very important to me - which is we can’t just oppose, we have to propose.”

Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, also played down the significance of his speech in Iowa, home of the leadoff presidential nominating caucuses. He declined to discuss plans beyond the election in November, including whether he would seek the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee, in light of Michigan Rep. David Camp’s decision to retire after 2014.

“It’s just premature to get into all that stuff,” he said.

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