The contest for the 7th Congressional District is now the most expensive US House race in Wisconsin history. The total fundraising by incumbent Sean Duffy, challenger Patrick Kreitlow, and various third-party political action committees now exceeds $8 million. 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.
The Republican Duffy says redistricting has added St. Croix County to the 7th CD, which means reaching out to constituents now includes the expensive Minneapolis media market.
The Democrat 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.”
The freshman House member admits he’s been targeted nationally. “A lot of these liberal groups have been running ads against me for the past year,” says Duffy.
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.”
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,” he says. “ 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. They will square off tonight in Superior for their final debate.
Larry Lee-WSAU contributed to this report