POLITICS

Outspoken Conservative Glenn Grothman Goes Quiet In House Race

MADISON, WI - MARCH 04:  Republican Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman waves as he walks through the Wisconsin State Capi
MADISON, WI - MARCH 04: Republican Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman waves as he walks through the Wisconsin State Capitol on March 4, 2011 in Madison,Wisconsin. Some demonstrators have returned to the capitol building hours after they were forced to vacate the building after occupying it for more than two weeks to protest Governor Scott Walker's attempt to push through a bill that would restrict collective bargaining for most government workers in the state. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Wisconsin state Sen. Glenn Grothman gained national attention for his conservative positions. The Republican lawmaker called Kwanzaa a fake holiday, tried to ban public school teachers from mentioning homosexuality and claimed that making money is more important for men than for women.

But now, as a House candidate trying to succeed retiring moderate Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.), Grothman has largely gone quiet, taking a low-key approach to campaigning and avoiding making any eyebrow-raising statements.

Grothman was never known for shying away from debate before, but he's been criticized during the campaign for doing just that -- not accepting invitations to debates and forums.

On Oct. 7, Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris, the Democratic candidate, sent out a press release noting that he would be attending a forum that evening sponsored by the League of Women Voters and The Oshkosh Northwestern, while Grothman would be at a decidedly less confrontational, less public event: a fundraiser with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

"He's definitely avoiding any sort of forum or debate, except for very small, controlled audiences. It's as if he's not running on his record but running away from it," said Harris in an interview. Harris' campaign, in response, has put up a website called "The Real Glenn Grothman for Congress."

In mid-September, Harris and Grothman appeared at a Fond du Lac Noon Rotary Club forum, which was closed to the public and had limits on press coverage. They'll also be doing an Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce forum on Oct. 23. The only larger, more public event will be an Oct. 30 debate co-sponsored by Sheboygan Press Media, Herald Times Reporter Media and Lakeland College.

More debates, of course, might well benefit Harris, who would get more exposure.

Grothman has also been doing fewer interviews with the media. In the past, the state senator has handed out his cell phone number to reporters and readily given interviews.

The Huffington Post called Grothman for this article. A few days later, he called back and said the request for an interview would have to go through his campaign staff. When asked for a specific contact since a previous interview request had received no reply, he simply said to call the phone number listed on his website.

On Oct. 2, The Cap Times, a progressive publication in Madison, Wisconsin, wrote an editorial lamenting the new Grothman. The editors said that while they don't always agree with his positions, they have "always liked ... his independence and his outspoken nature."

"The new Glenn Grothman who is avoiding debates may satisfy the Republican consultants from Washington who want to avoid any real discourse in a district where they think they can win without extending much effort," wrote the Cap Times editors. "But he is not meeting the standard that voters should expect of a candidate for Congress -- and he is not meeting the standard that the old Glenn Grothman established."

Grothman won his four-way primary in August by just 214 votes. Even though the congressional district leans Republican and the race is widely seen as Grothman's to lose, not all Republicans were thrilled with his primary victory. Kevin Binversie, a GOP operative and editor at the site Right Wisconsin, tweeted his dismay.

Grothman -- or, at least, his staff -- seems to have recognized his vulnerability and his tendency to generate headlines and wagered that some lost media wouldn't be the worst thing for his candidacy.

Harris, however, said he expects the old Grothman to return if the state senator gets into Congress.

"He can't change his stripes," said Harris. "Glenn Grothman is who he is, and we'll see the real Glenn Grothman after the election if he wins."

HuffPost

BEFORE YOU GO

  • Florida-2
    Rep. Steve Southerland (R) has come under fire for holding a  <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/steve-southerland-fundr
    Bill Clark via Getty Images
    Rep. Steve Southerland (R) has come under fire for holding a fundraiser for only men, obfuscating his record on violence against women legislation and making bizarre comments about lingerie. Democrats feel good about their nominee, attorney Gwen Graham. She is the daughter of Bob Graham, a popular former Democratic governor and senator.
  • Nebraska-2
    Rep. Lee Terry (R) and his Democratic challenger, Brad Ashford, are locked in a tight race in this Omaha-area district. 

Dem
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Rep. Lee Terry (R) and his Democratic challenger, Brad Ashford, are locked in a tight race in this Omaha-area district. Democrats have been hitting Terry over his comments on how he could not "handle" giving up his pay during last year's government shutdown because he felt he needed to maintain his "nice house and a kid in college."
  • Arizona-2
    Rep. Ron Barber (D) was injured during the Tucson, Arizona, attack that also wounded his boss, then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Rep. Ron Barber (D) was injured during the Tucson, Arizona, attack that also wounded his boss, then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). That legacy may not be enough to protect him from a GOP challenge by retired Air Force combat pilot Martha McSally. Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC, the gun-control group founded by Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, has been running ads targeting McSally in the hope of keeping Giffords' former seat in Democratic hands.
  • Arizona-1
    Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) faces a tough challenge in this swingy rural district, which she won in 2008 and then lost in 2010,
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) faces a tough challenge in this swingy rural district, which she won in 2008 and then lost in 2010, only to win back in 2012. Though Arizona state House Speaker Andy Tobin (R) has trailed Kirkpatrick in fundraising, conservative outside groups have jumped into the race. Kirkpatrick's re-election may hinge on support from Native Americans, who make up 25 percent of the district's population. In contrast with other vulnerable Democratic incumbents, Kirkpatrick has defended, rather than fled from, the Affordable Care Act.
  • California-52
    Former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio, who is challenging freshman Rep. Scott Peters (D), could become <a href="https:
    Carl DeMaio (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
    Former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio, who is challenging freshman Rep. Scott Peters (D), could become the first openly gay Republican elected to Congress in November. The race between DeMaio and Peters is considered one of the true toss-ups of this election cycle. Peters has been emphasizing his business-friendly policies (he was one of only a handful of Democrats to have been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce), while DeMaio is emphasizing his socially moderate stances.
  • West Virginia-3
    Rep. Nick Rahall (D) is considered vulnerable because of the heavy amount of spending from conservative outside groups in his
    Nick Rahall (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
    Rep. Nick Rahall (D) is considered vulnerable because of the heavy amount of spending from conservative outside groups in his Republican-leaning district. Despite his attempts to put distance between himself and the Democratic Party, and his longtime representation of the district (he was first elected in 1976), Rahall may finally fall to state Sen. Evan Jenkins (R), who used to be a Democrat.
  • New Hampshire-1
    This is <a href="http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/sep/14/shea-porter-guinta-gear-up-for-a-threematch/" target="_blank
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    This is the third time Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) and former Rep. Frank Guinta (R-N.H.) have faced each other in the Granite State. Shea-Porter has been put on the defensive over the Affordable Care Act, while Democrats have accused Guinta of being too conservative for the district.
  • Minnesota-8
    Rep. Rick Nolan (D) faces a well-financed challenger in Republican businessman Stewart Mills. Democrats are attempting to pai
    Rick Nolan (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
    Rep. Rick Nolan (D) faces a well-financed challenger in Republican businessman Stewart Mills. Democrats are attempting to paint Mills as privileged and out-of-touch as they try to hold the seat.
  • Illinois-10
    This year's race is a rematch between former Rep. Bob Dold (R-Ill.) and Rep. Brad Schneider (D). Republicans are optimistic a
    Bob Dold (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
    This year's race is a rematch between former Rep. Bob Dold (R-Ill.) and Rep. Brad Schneider (D). Republicans are optimistic about their chances, given the unpopularity of Gov. Pat Quinn (D).
  • Cailfornia-7
    First-term physician Rep. Ami Bera (D) is defending his seat against former Rep. Doug Ose (R-Calif.). Republicans have worked
    Ami Bera (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
    First-term physician Rep. Ami Bera (D) is defending his seat against former Rep. Doug Ose (R-Calif.). Republicans have worked to tie Bera to Democrats in Congress, while Bera has insisted that he maintains distance from the party.
  • Florida-26
    Rep. Joe Garcia (D) faces a strong challenge from Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo (R). 

To cast Curbelo as too
    Joe Garcia (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
    Rep. Joe Garcia (D) faces a strong challenge from Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo (R). To cast Curbelo as too extreme for the district, Garcia's campaign has been running ads that highlight Curbelo's comments calling Social Security and Medicare a "Ponzi scheme."
  • New York-21
    With the retirement of Rep. Bill Owens (D), Republican former White House aide Elise Stefanik <a href="https://www.huffpost.c
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    With the retirement of Rep. Bill Owens (D), Republican former White House aide Elise Stefanik could become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. She is the favorite to take the seat over former filmmaker and organic grocery store owner Aaron Woolf (D).
  • New Jersey-3
    Former insurance executive and former Randolph Mayor Tom MacArthur (R) and Burlington County Freeholder and attorney Aimee Be
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Former insurance executive and former Randolph Mayor Tom MacArthur (R) and Burlington County Freeholder and attorney Aimee Belgard (D) are vying to succeed retiring Rep. Jon Runyan (R) in this competitive race. Belgard is considered the underdog, given MacArthur's ability to self-fund his campaign.
  • California-31
    California's 31st is one of the most Democratic districts in the country to be currently held by a Republican, retiring Rep.
    Paul Chabot (Congressional Quarterly via Getty Images)
    California's 31st is one of the most Democratic districts in the country to be currently held by a Republican, retiring Rep. Gary Miller. But Democrats are nervous that low turnout could hurt their nominee, Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, against retired Navy officer and businessman Paul Chabot (R).
  • Maine-2
    State Sen. Emily Cain (D) and tea-party-backed businessman and former Maine Treasurer <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    State Sen. Emily Cain (D) and tea-party-backed businessman and former Maine Treasurer Bruce Poliquin (R) are engaged in a tight race in the district held by Rep. Michael Michaud (D), who is running for governor. Though Cain recently picked up the endorsement of independent U.S. Sen. Angus King, she has trailed Poliquin in recent polls.
  • Colorado-6
    Rep. Mike Coffman's (R) chances against former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D) are looking better than they did ea
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Rep. Mike Coffman's (R) chances against former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D) are looking better than they did earlier in the cycle. Coffman has disavowed his former support for personhood initiatives, which would grant fetuses full legal rights from the moment of fertilization, in an effort to neutralize Democratic attacks over reproductive rights. He has also begun learning Spanish to better appeal to the district's significant Latino population.
  • Illinois-12
    Rep. Bill Enyart (D) may be dragged down by the unpopularity of Gov. Pat Quinn (D). The freshman congressman faces a challeng
    Bill Enyart (Bill Clark via Getty Images)
    Rep. Bill Enyart (D) may be dragged down by the unpopularity of Gov. Pat Quinn (D). The freshman congressman faces a challenge from state Rep. Mike Bost (R). Democrats have dubbed Bost "Meltdown Mike" in ads, highlighting his outbursts and temper tantrums during state legislative sessions.
  • New York-11
    <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/michael-grimm-trial_n_5640921" target="_blank">Embattled</a> Rep. Michael Grimm (R) <
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Embattled Rep. Michael Grimm (R) may still prevail against former New York City Councilman Domenic M. Recchia Jr., his Democratic challenger. Despite Grimm's 20-count federal indictment and his well-publicized threat to throw a reporter off a congressional balcony, he remains well-liked in the Staten Island-based district. Democrats are spending heavily to boost Recchia and paint Grimm as too volatile.
  • New York-1
    New York state Sen. Lee Zeldin (R) is mounting a tough challenge to Rep. Timothy Bishop (D) in this Long Island-based distric
    Lee Zeldin (Tom Williams via Getty Images)
    New York state Sen. Lee Zeldin (R) is mounting a tough challenge to Rep. Timothy Bishop (D) in this Long Island-based district. Democrats are calling Zeldin too extreme on women's issues, while Republican outside groups are hitting Bishop over his support for the Affordable Care Act. Zeldin's candidacy has attracted attention since he's a Jewish Republican. He could replace former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who suffered a shocking loss in his primary earlier this year, as the only non-Christian Republican in Congress.
  • Iowa-3
    Former Iowa state Sen. Staci Appel (D) and Sen. Chuck Grassley's (R-Iowa) former chief of staff David Young are locked in a c
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Former Iowa state Sen. Staci Appel (D) and Sen. Chuck Grassley's (R-Iowa) former chief of staff David Young are locked in a close race to succeed retiring Rep. Tom Latham (R). If elected, Appel or state Sen. Joni Ernst (R), who is running for the U.S. Senate, could become the first woman to represent the state in Congress.
CONVERSATIONS