Jim Sensenbrenner

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner shocked many people in Wisconsin politics by announcing that is retiring after 42 years in Washington. He says he’s not going to hand-pick his successor in Congress. 

Sensenbrenner told WISN's Jay Weber on Thursday that he is stepping down for personal reasons, saying it's time due to political reasons. 

"I didn't want to appear to be forced out," Sensenbrenner said Thursday. "I don't have an opponent now. I think it's very clear that had I run, I'd be re-elected."

Sensenbrenner says he is bowing out to give a younger conservative a shot to represent Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties going forward. 

"I want to have an incumbent freshman with a career ahead of them sitting in the Fifth District come redistricting," Sensenbrenner explained. 

He said he doesn't want his district that stretches from just west of Milwaukee to almost Janesville and includes the Republican stronghold of Waukesha County to be "chopped up."

Sensenbrenner expects a lot of Republicans will run to replace him. And that has him worried. 

"One of the concerns that I have is that you will have five or six conservatives and one RINO [Republican in name only] running in the Republican primary. And the RINO wins with about 20 percent of the vote," Sesnsenbrenner said. "If that happens, that will be a terrible outcome."

But despite his worries, Sensenbrenner said he is going to stay neutral in the Republican primary. 

"There is going to be a scrum running for my seat," Sensenbrenner said. "I would urge every one of the Republicans to seek the Republican Caucus endorsement, which will be held in March of next year. Because no one is going to be able to win this seat in the primary or in the general election without a good grassroots program."

Sensenbrenner has served in Congress since 1979. He is the longest serving congressman from the state of Wisconsin, and second among active Congressman only to Alaska's Don Young. 

Sensenbrenner will retire from Congress when his term ends in January of 2021.  

Staff Writer

An industry veteran with two decades of experience in media, Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square.