First Democrat joins race for District 6 seat in Congress - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

First Democrat joins race for District 6 seat in Congress

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris announced his run for Congress on Tuesday, becoming the first Democrat to join the race to replace U.S. Rep. Tom Petri in Wisconsin's Republican-leaning 6th District.

Harris highlighted four key issues on his platform: funding Social Security, highway repairs, raising the minimum wage and college affordability.

Later Tuesday, Republican Joe Leibham is expected to enter the race. Leibham, a state senator from Sheboygan, would join state Sen. Glenn Grothman, of West Bend, and state Rep. Duey Stroebel, of Saukville, as the Republicans in the race to replace Petri.

Petri, who has represented the district that spans eastern and central Wisconsin since 1979, is considered a moderate Republican. He announced earlier this month that he wouldn't run for re-election.

Harris, 58, was elected Winnebago County executive in 2005. He says he has worked with Republicans and Democrats on his officially nonpartisan county board and would bring to Washington a willingness to negotiate.

"We've always been able to work together when you're looking for practical solutions. That's what you really need in Washington. You can't portray the other side as villains," he said.

Harris claims he would like to see the minimum wage tied to the private sector's average hourly wage and suggested roughly 42 percent of that, or $8.53, would be appropriate. That is less than the $10.10 per hour that President Barack Obama has championed, but Harris noted that an increase would likely be phased in, making his proposal for an indexed minimum wage comparable over time.

He also says he would advocate financial incentives, such as federal matching funds, to encourage states to provide more money for universities and technical colleges and relieve some of the burden on students. In talking about Social Security and highway repairs, Harris didn't offer specific funding plans but said he would advocate working with Republicans to create them.

John Hiller, a confidant of Gov. Scott Walker, said in an email Tuesday he plans to make a decision on whether to run for the 6th District seat within the next few days.

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