Tough road for fifth district challenger
Heaster takes on 17-term Sensenbrenner
Menomonee Falls Internet technology architect Dave Heaster, 46, a Democrat, faces what many political observers might regard as an almost impossible task: upsetting 17-term incumbent Congressman James Sensenbrenner, a Republican, also of Menomonee Falls.
Not only has Sensenbrenner, 69, been a political fixture in Lake Country since being elected to Congress for the first time in 1978, but he also represents what is regarded as one of the strongest Republican congressional districts in Wisconsin.
On three occasions - 1998, 1994 and 1980 - Sensenbrenner was re-elected with no Democratic opposition.
In 14 contested re-elections, Sensenbrenner won by at least 60 percent of the vote, and on three occasions earned more than 80 percent of the votes cast.
Heaster, a Milwaukee area organizer for the liberal Democratic organization MoveOn.org, is making his first bid for public office.
Candidates were asked to keep their answers to 50 words on each of these questions.
Q Why do you think Congress has such a low approval rating in public opinion polls, and how could Congress be more effective?
Sensenbrenner: If the U.S. Senate would do its job, Congress would not have such a low approval rating. The House has passed over 30 job creation bills, but the Senate has failed to act on them, and they have not passed a budget in three years. Heaster: Partisan brinkmanship, infighting and greed all keep Congress from doing what they are sent to do: represent the people and get the job done. My approach: Get corporate money out of Washington and conduct a weekly happy hour where members of Congress could get to know one another outside of the politically charged House floor.
Q What should the next administration's top priority should be: stabilizing the Middle East, creating more jobs, reducing the national debt or repealing or improving "Obamacare"?
Heaster: Creating jobs. We need to remove barriers for the job creators to make the system work again. Unlike my opponent, I believe the job creators are the middle class. Keep the middle class healthy and everyone does well, even the wealthy.
Sensenbrenner: All of the above. Most Americans believe we are on the wrong track, and every one of these items contributes to that perception. The next president must address these issues with a specific plan, and he must pressure Congress to pass meaningful legislation dealing with each challenge.
Q What are the greatest challenges the people of the 5th Congressional District face, and how can you help them overcome that challenge?
Sensenbrenner: Jobs and the economy. The American public believes the country is going in the wrong direction, and a change in the White House is desperately needed. Using my seniority and proven record in passing meaningful legislation, I have the experience to rise above partisanship and achieve agreement and results.
Heaster: There is one thing that hits our district and the country as a whole: education. I want to fight for our students and teachers. If we are serious about creating jobs, an investment in education is the best way to ensure success. Education can also help in our war against terror.
James Sensenbrenner (inc.)
Occupation: Member of Congress
Educational background: Bachelor's degree, political science, StanfordUniversity; law degree, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Previous elected offices: Wisconsin State Assembly, Wisconsin State Senate
Honors or organizations: Named Man of the Year by Human Events magazine; chaired House Judiciary Committee and Committee on Science, Space and Technology and was a House floor manager in the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.
Number of years in hometown community: 34 years
Family: Wife ,Cheryl; two adult sons and daughter-in-law
Occupation: eCommerce architect-IT
Educational background: Bachelor's degree, management information systems, UW-Eau Claire
Previous elected offices sought or held: None
Honors or organizations: Council organizer for MoveOn.org Milwaukee
Number of years in hometown community: 12
Family: Wife, Jean; three teenage children
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