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Democrat to run in 17th Senate District
Ex-WisDOT employee to challenge Schultz, Marklein
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State Sen. Dale Schultz (R–Richland Center) hasn’t announced yet whether he will run for reelection to his 17th Senate District seat next year.

If Schultz decides to run, he will have, as of this week, both Republican and Democratic opposition.

State Rep. Howard Marklein (R–Spring Green) announced in April that he will run for the Republican nomination in the 17th District.

Ernie Wittwer of Hillpoint announced Tuesday morning in Madison that he will run for the 17th Senate District as a Democrat.

“I am running to provide Wisconsin’s 17th State Senate District with the progressive leadership we have long desired,” said Wittwer in a Democratic Party of Wisconsin news release. “I’ve lived in Wisconsin all my life, but right now, Wisconsin’s on the wrong track. Politicians in Madison are more interested in partisan agendas than solving problems and representing the people. I’m running because we deserve better.”

Wittwer is the director of the Midwest Regional University Transportation Center, based at UW–Madison, and an adjunct professor of civil and environmental engineering at UW–Madison. He worked for the state Department of Transportation for 24 years.

Schultz was first elected to the 50th Assembly District in 1982. After state Sen. Richard Kreul (R–Fennimore) announced his retirement in 1991, Schultz defeated fellow Rep. David Brandemuehl (R–Fennimore) in the Republican primary, then defeated Democratic Lafayette County Clerk Steve Pickett of Darlington, with 59 percent of the vote, in the general election.

“During my entire service in the legislature, I’ve always waited until about a year before my term is up to sit down with my family and a few close supporters to assess whether I should run for re-election," said Schultz after Marklein's April announcement. "Then I make a decision sometime after the first of the year. I’ll use the same process this time regardless of the events of this past weekend.”

Schultz became a target of Republicans outside southwest Wisconsin when he was the only Republican to vote against a bill to reform the state’s iron mining laws so a proposed mine could be built in northwestern Wisconsin. The bill authored by Assembly Republicans lost 17–16, with Schultz and all 16 Senate Democrats voting against it. The group Citizens for Responsible Government announced a recall effort in 2012, but the effort failed.

Schultz also voted against Act 10, the public employee collective bargaining reforms, in 2011. The bill passed the Senate 17–16.

If Schultz decides to run, Marklein would be his first Senate primary opponent since his first 17th District election win in 1991. Schultz won his Senate races with 64 percent of the vote in 1994, 70 percent of the vote in 1998, 67 percent of the vote in 2002, 57 percent of the vote in 2006, and 78 percent of the vote over Democrat Carol Beals of Platteville in 2010.

The 17th Senate District is one of the largest Senate districts in Wisconsin in land area, extending from the Wisconsin–Illinois state line to the Juneau–Wood county line. The district includes all of Grant, Lafayette, Richland and Juneau counties, and southwestern Green, western and central Iowa, western Sauk and far eastern Monroe counties.