WAUSAU, WI (WSAU) - The race for the 7th Congressional District is now the most expensive Congressional race in Wisconsin history. The total fundraising by incumbent Sean Duffy, challenger Patrick Kreitlow, and various third-party political action committees now exceeds eight million dollars. The previous spending record was set in 2006 in the 8th Congressional District in the race featuring Republican John Gard and Democrat Steve Kagen.
Campaign finance reports show Kreitlow raised $1.1 million dollars and Duffy had raised $2.3 million dollars through September. Special interest groups from both sides spent $3.6 million dollars combined on the race through mid-October.
Sean Duffy says one of the reasons this campaign is expensive is due to redistricting. He says the addition of St. Croix County makes reaching those constituents expensive. "That means ads had to be purchased in the Minneapolis media market, and the Minneapolis media market is very expensive. That's one of the reasons the cost has gone up dramatically."Patrick Kreitlow says redistricting is a factor, but he believes the cost is more about the people running this time. "It's because it's competitive, and it's competitive because Congressman Duffy hasn't done much for the district, so when you have a vulnerable incumbent and you have a strong challenger, that invites a lot of outside money.”
Both candidates say they would like to see less money and more transparency in political campaigns. Kreitlow believes modern technology should make it easier to see who is really supporting political action groups. "In this instant information age, there should be nothing wrong with the voters knowing as quickly as possible who is actually putting money into a campaign. I have been behind such initiatives as a legislator. I would instantly be behind such reforms as a Congressman."Duffy says changing how money flows into all campaigns would be better for everyone. "I'm one who believes if we could get all of the money out of politics, we would all be better off. But if you do it, you have to get the money out from both sides, and if we are able to craft some proposals to make sure that happens, I would be supportive of that.”Both candidates expect to spend about everything they bring in before Tuesday without putting the campaigns in debt.
Redistricting added St. Croix County to the 7th Congressional District along the Minnesota border. It also eliminated Stevens Point and Chippewa Falls, placing them in the 3rd Congressional District.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Both candidates were able to get some of their other talking points in during our interviews about campaign spending. If you’d like to hear what else they have to say, play the entire interviews with Sean Duffy and Patrick Kreitlow by clicking on the application buttons below the photo.)