Wednesday, July 25, 2007



James Sensenbrenner, a 15-term fixture in Congress, hasn't had to worry much about re-election. His deep red Wisconsin district north and west of Milwaukee is wealthy and habitually Republican. Bush got over 60% of the vote there both times. Since becoming an incumbent, Sensenbrenner has only dipped below 70% twice-- in 2004 Bryan Kennedy held him to 67% and last year Kennedy actually got him down to 62%. Is the big man vulnerable? Today's CQ Politics offers a look at a unique kind of one-two punch shaping up against Sensenbrenner.

Two professors, friends in fact, are planning to run against him next year-- one as a Republican and one as a Democrat. Republican Jim Burkee and Democrat Jeff Walzboth teach at Concordia University. They are actually working together to bring down Sensenbrenner "as an effort to bring civility and action back to Congress."
“Jeff and I are friends,” said Burkee, a history professor. “He’s a Democrat and I’m a Republican, and we disagree on a lot in terms of how we get things done. But we generally agree that it is outrageous that on a whole range of issues nothing has gotten done.”

The candidates point to energy and immigration, along with fiscal policy and the expanding deficit, as issues that should have been dealt with by Congress. Several areas of agreement will be codified in a pact the candidates will sign a week after they officially launch their campaigns. Among their agreements: no personal attacks, no money from political action committees, no gifts from lobbyists and a self-imposed limit of three two-year terms in the House.

In a show of bipartisan comity rarely, if ever, seen before in congressional politics, Burkee and Walz will launch a joint campaign Web site at and produce joint advertising, bumper stickers and yard signs. Burkee promised “Lincoln-Douglas style” debates, referring to the series of dialogues in 1858 between Republican Abraham Lincoln and Democrat Stephen A. Douglas as they competed for a Senate seat representing Illinois.

“You’re going to see that campaigning you’ve always wanted and deserved. It’s going to be clean, it’s going to be substantive, it’s going to be free of big money influences,” Burkee said. “It’s going to be, I think, the kind of campaign our founders expected.”

Neither plans to retire from teaching at Concordia if he wins, eschewing the idea of ever turning into a career politician like you-know-who and embrassing the idea of the citizen-legislator. And neither is bothering to even contact their national parties' congressional committees, the corrupt insider organizations the DCCC and RNCC. This may be silly, but Kennedy isn't running again and either of these two would be a vast improvement over a right-wing ideologue and ultimate self-entitled hack like Sensenbrenner.

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