Jim Sensenbrenner Retires

 Joe Murray  |    November 11, 2019
Jim Sensenbrenner Retires

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, first elected in 1978, and the second longest-serving member of the U.S. House of Representatives, will retire after he completes his 22nd term in January 2021. ‚ÄúI‚Äôve said all along I‚Äôd know when the right time came and I‚Äôve come to the conclusion it has,‚ÄĚ Sensenbrenner said in an interview with the Journal Sentinel.¬† ‚ÄúThere is nobody running against me.¬† Nobody can say they‚Äôve pushed me out. I‚Äôm doing this on my own terms.‚ÄĚ

After serving for more than 40 years in Congress, Sensenbrenner issued a statement in which he noted his many accomplishments as the longest-serving member of the House in Wisconsin’s history: “For 40 years I have held over 100 town hall meetings each year; I have helped countless individuals when they encountered difficulties with the federal government; I’ve taken 23,882 votes on the House Floor; been the lead co-sponsor of 42,099 pieces of legislation, ushered 768 of them through the House for passage, and watched as 217 of them have been signed into law by six different presidents."

Politically, Sensenbrenner’s only close race in this district was his first primary election contest with former state Rep. Susan Engeleiter. He won the Republican primary in this conservative district by 589 votes, leading to his 41-year career as a House member from southeastern Wisconsin.

According to the Almanac of American Politics, Waukesha County includes nearly one half of the population in the 5th Congressional District. This part of the state is home to several well-known GOP incumbents and, under normal circumstances, you might expect a multi-candidate field for the August 11 primary election next year. Today, however, only one significant Republican candidate has entered the race, and several have decided against running. Let’s take a brief look at who has entered this race, who has decided to stay out, and what the political landscape looks like in the open seat contest in the 5th Congressional District.

Possible candidates: So far, the only GOP candidate to officially enter the race to replace retiring Rep. Sensenbrenner is Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau). Fitzgerald is a 25-year veteran of the Wisconsin Senate and has led his majority party caucus for the last nine years. Fitzgerald is well known and respected for his ability to lead a Republican caucus that includes moderates and conservatives, which is not an easy task in a highly polarized political environment. The list of GOP candidates who decided against a run in this very conservative district is equally noteworthy. Those who decided not to run include Matt Walker ‚ÄĒ son of former Gov. Scott Walker, Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow, former state Sen. Leah Vukmir, and state Reps. Scott Allen and Adam Neylon from Waukesha. Democrat Tom Palzewicz, who ran against Rep. Sensenbrenner in 2018 and lost, is running again in 2020. The chances for any Democrat running and winning in this district are slim to none.

5th Congressional District landscape: The 5th Congressional District is by far the most heavily Republican district in Wisconsin. Sensenbrenner was never seriously challenged in this district over his 40-plus years in the House. The 5th District is anchored by conservative Waukesha County and has provided big margins of victory for every top-of-the-ticket GOP candidate over the years, including Tommy Thompson, Scott Walker, Ron Johnson, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Donald Trump. Democrats have no chance in this district, so the important election will take place on August 11, 2020, in the primary. The winner of the GOP primary election will be the next U.S. representative from the 5th Congressional District.
Watch for more information about this race in future issues of Wisconsin Real Estate Magazine.

Joe Murray is Director of Political and Governmental Affairs for the WRA. 

Candidates for the 5th Congressional District

With Rep. Sensenbrenner’s retirement from Wisconsin’s 5th Congressional District, the following candidates have either entered the race to fill Sensenbrenner’s seat. This list of potential candidates is current as of press time and is subject to change. 

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