OCONOMOWOC, Wis. (CN) – Wisconsin state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, a pillar of the conservative caucus, announced Tuesday that he will run for the state’s Fifth Congressional District seat, which will be open when 76-year-old Representative Jim Sensenbrenner retires at the end of his current term.
Sensenbrenner, a Republican who has served 21 terms in Congress, announced his intention to retire earlier this month, sparking speculation in Wisconsin over who will replace him in the inveterately conservative district.
Fitzgerald’s announcement immediately establishes him as the frontrunner for a seat reportedly being eyed by a number of Wisconsin conservatives, including State Senator Chris Kapenga and State Representative Adam Neylon.
The Fifth District encompasses the suburbs to the north and west of Milwaukee and covers parts of Milwaukee, Dodge, Waukesha and Walworth counties, as well as all of Jefferson and Washington counties. President Donald Trump won the area by nearly 20 points in the 2016 presidential election.
Fitzgerald, who has served in Wisconsin’s Senate since 1994, applauded Trump in his campaign announcement Tuesday, stating that he hopes to continue the legacy of conservative representation under Sensenbrenner.
“Washington is a mess,” Fitzgerald said in his announcement. “For too long, liberals and the elite have ignored the needs of working-class people. President Trump has made tremendous strides in fixing the D.C. dysfunction, but he needs more help. In Wisconsin, we know how to fix broken government and put taxpayers back in charge.”
Fitzgerald has helped lead much of the last decade’s political maneuvering by Wisconsin’s GOP, particularly when conservatives controlled the legislature and the chief executive’s office under two-term Republican Governor Scott Walker, who lost re-election this past fall to current Democratic Governor Tony Evers.
Fitzgerald was integral in advocating and enacting Act 10, a piece of Walker-era legislation that, among other measures, severely tightened the collective bargaining powers of public sector unions. The legislation sparked large protests in and around the capitol in Madison in early 2011.
More recently, Fitzgerald spearheaded – along with State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos – the passage of controversial lame-duck laws aimed at curtailing the powers of the newly-elected Evers and fellow Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul, who won election over Republican incumbent Brad Schimel.
The laws were passed after a quick, unannounced extraordinary session of the legislature last December, less than a month after Evers and Kaul were elected in midterms that saw liberals take every statewide office.
The wide-ranging laws give the legislature broad oversight over the governor’s ability to execute health care waivers, implement drug testing and minimum work requirements for some recipients of welfare, and forces the attorney general to clear any settlement in the state’s lawsuits with the legislature’s GOP-majority finance committee.
Fitzgerald’s announcement also touts his work pushing legislation to make Wisconsin a right-to-work state and authoring a partial-birth abortion ban.
“I haven’t just talked about conservative principles, I’ve lived them, and I’ve helped to make them a reality here in Wisconsin,” he said.