7TH DISTRICT: TV journalist vies for congressional position
As an Eau Claire television reporter, Pat Kreitlow covered stories about government and the impact that laws have on everyday people. What he discovered was not always good news.
In 2005, Kreitlow decided to step out from in front of the camera and join the ranks of local politicans.
The journalist quit his job and ran for the Wisconsin State Senate in District 23 and eventually served in the legislature from 2007 to 2011.
"After years of holding public officials accountable, I wanted to try and serve the public," he said. "I went from doing stories all over Wisconsin ... to talking to people, writing laws and trying to solve problems."
During his tenure in Madison, Kreitlow said he focused on such issues as rural economic development, education, health care access and campaign finance reform. He said he worked hard to cooperate with senators on both sides of the political aisle, securing bi-partisan backing for any bills he worked on.
"You need to have an open door and an open mind to be a successful politician," Kreitlow commented.
After losing a re-election bid, the Chippewa Falls resident has been out of politics. But when the opportunity to challenge Seventh District incumbent U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy came along, he couldn't pass it up.
Kreitlow said Duffy has failed to deliver on campaign promises of 2010 and is out of step with the majority of voters in his district.
"He promised to be an independent voice for western Wisconsin," he said. "But he is not the right fit to represent us in Washington."
Kreitlow charged that Duffy has voted in lock-step with congressional Republicans, such as Paul Ryan, and those politicians have proposed dramatic changes that will negatively impact the middle class, Medicare recipients and people needing better access to health care.
Kreitlow also criticized Duffy and other Republicans for their lack of action on the Farm Bill, which directly impacts producers and communities statewide.
"We deserve better representation in the House of Representatives," Kreitlow said.
If Duffy is re-elected, Kreitlow warned, voters will see more of the same. He said he's frightened about the prospect of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan being elected as president and vice president. Ryan's previous budget proposals include dramatic changes to Medicare, government services, education and more, he said.
"It's the wrong path for Wisconsin's middle class," he said. "It not only makes our national deficit worse and not better, it will also lead to higher taxes and fewer services for the middle class."
On top of that, Kreitlow said, the Republican plan calls for tax breaks for "the privileged few" at the expense of the middle class.
If he's elected, Kreitlow said he vows to push for tax relief for the middle class and focus on job creation in the U.S. Kreitlow said his goal is not to just create jobs, but to create higher-paying jobs that can support a family.
Also at the top of the next Congress's priority list should be an effort to reduce the federal deficit, Kreitlow said.
"Adding jobs and attacking wasteful spending have to go hand in hand if we're going to reduce this troubling deficit," he said. "And we need to balance the budget the right way. We need to go after wasteful and redundant spending, not slash Medicare or give tax cuts to millionaires."
Kreitlow said the country "can't afford" another four years of "trickle-down economics," claiming Duffy and other Republicans continue to push for breaks for rich people who don't need the help.
To accomplish these goals, Kreitlow said he'd work with both Democrats and Republicans in Congress. While he's been on the campaign trail this fall, Kreitlow said voters are tired of the political bickering taking place in Washington, D.C. and across the nation.
"They are just sick of the toxic environment and partisanship that spreads throughout Washington," he said. "They're telling us that this Congress is addicted to games and gridlock. Voters want a Congress that works as hard as they do. We need to work together to start getting a few things done."
As the campaign heads into its final weeks, Kreitlow said he feels confident about his chances on Nov. 6. He said polls show a tight race.
"It's anybody's race at this point," he said.
Kreitlow said he was disappointed that his opponent has not agreed to participate in any televised debates that could be broadcast across the entire district.
"It's unusual," he said, "for someone so comfortable in front of a camera."