September 14, 2019
By; Bill Glauber of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
TOWN OF BROOKFIELD - He's been saluted by colleagues, thanked by voters and jokingly vowed that in his final months in office he'll be "more unhinged and more tart."
U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner isn't going quietly.
Less than two weeks after announcing he will retire from the House of Representatives at the end of this term, Sensenbrenner was back on the town hall circuit Saturday, handling constituent concerns and fielding questions on an array of issues.
"My term doesn't expire until January 2021," he said. "I have always been one who has asked for input from my constituents."
Sensenbrenner was politely received by an overflow audience at the Brookfield Town Hall.
Even those who disagreed with the congressman thanked him for taking their questions. The issues ranged from climate change to immigration and whether President Donald Trump has violated the emoluments clause that bars elected officials from profiting from foreign governments.
That last subject got an emphatic "no," from Sensenbrenner, who was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1978.
During town halls, Sensenbrenner usually shares the dais with local legislators. In this case, it was Democratic state Rep. Robyn Vining of Wauwatosa who sat beside him.
She was 2 years old when Sensenbrenner first went to Congress.
Vining said it was "fun" to watch Sensenbrenner at work and appreciated his willingness to give people a chance to ask questions, even if he disagreed with them.
"We need more politicians who will let people finish their questions," she said.
In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Sensenbrenner said he was "at peace" with his decision to leave Congress.
"I wanted to retire on my own terms," he said.
After he leaves Congress, Sensenbrenner said he will still be in Wisconsin but plans to spend most of his time in the Washington, D.C., area, where his wife, Cheryl, lives in a nursing home. She suffered a stroke 5½ years ago.
Plenty of Republicans are considering making a run for the seat but Sensenbrenner said he will hold off on making an endorsement, "at least until the Republican endorsing convention next March."
Although no one has jumped into the GOP race, those looking at it include state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald; state Sen. Chris Kapenga; former U.S. Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson; state Rep. Adam Neylon; state Rep. Scott Allen; former Gov. Scott Walker's son, Matt Walker; and former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann's son, Matt Neumann.
Democrat Tom Palzewicz, who challenged Sensenbrenner in 2018, plans to run again.
Sensenbrenner said candidates should "see what the job entails," and said being a congressman can be "toxic to family life."
During the town hall, he was asked what the most pressing issues facing the country are and he quickly responded: "The deficit and national debt."
"That's nothing that's going to be fixed in the next 15½ months before the current term expires. So whoever replaces me, I hope they will become a deficit hawk," he said.
Asked what attributes voters should look for in his successor, Sensenbrenner said he hoped people would look at the "background and experience" of the candidates.
"I think their stance on the issues is very important," he said. "I think who hires the most clever ad agency to put ads up on TV is not important."
He said candidates will have to "get around and be present."
"People like to see what they're being asked to vote for," he said. "So let's see who decides to come out and let all of us see him or her."