, ,

Democrat Peter Barca announces bid for Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District

Barca stepped down as secretary of Wisconsin’s Department of Revenue earlier this month

Peter Barca
Wisconsin Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, addresses delegates at the Democratic Party of Wisconsin convention Friday, June 6, 2014, in Lake Delton, Wis. Andy Manis/AP Photo

Democrat Peter Barca, a former state representative who served in Congress 30 years ago, announced a new congressional run Thursday. 

Barca will attempt to unseat incumbent U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil of Janesville, a Republican, to serve Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District. Barca most recently served as the secretary of Wisconsin’s Department of Revenue, but he stepped down from that role earlier this month.

Barca made the announcement official at a press conference at Apple Holler in Racine County early Thursday afternoon, surrounded by his family and some of his closest supporters.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

“We need to grow, we need to expand the middle class, we need to improve access to quality health care, we need to improve the quality of life for senior citizens and all people, we need to make sure our streets are safe, we need to make sure that we protect the environment for my grandkids and everybody else’s grandkids for generations to come,” Barca said.

Peter Barca speaks at a press conference at Apple Holler in Sturtevant, WI on Thursday, April 18, 2024. Evan Casey/WPR

Barca previously served as a U.S. representative for the 1st District from 1993 to 1995.

The Kenosha resident spent a total of nine terms as a representative in the Wisconsin State Assembly. That included a stint as Democratic minority leader before he stepped down from that role in 2017.

During the press conference, Barca said he wants to lift up the middle class and support “good paying jobs.”

“Now, more than ever, Wisconsin families are being left behind by partisan politics and that’s sad,” Barca said. “They need a leader who will stand up for them, and I have done that time and time again.”

Bryan Steil
Bryan Steil. Photo courtesy of the campaign

Steil was first elected in 2018, winning an open seat after former House Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville decided not to seek reelection. He’s a member of the House Financial Services Committee, as well as the Chairman of the Committee on House Administration.

In response to Barca’s announcement, Mike Marinella, spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Barca would be “too extreme for Southeast Wisconsin.”

“Peter Barca has consistently put his out of touch policies ahead of Wisconsinites, and Bryan Steil will have a resounding victory this November,” Marinella said in the statement. 

Republican Party of Wisconsin spokesperson Matt Fisher also released a statement on the announcement.

“After desperately rummaging through their attic to find a candidate to run against Congressman Bryan Steil, Wisconsin Democrats are resorting to yet another career politician with an abysmal record,” the statement said.

Rep. Peter Barca and Sen. Julie Lassa
Former Democratic State Rep. Peter Barca, left, and former State Sen. Julie Lassa. Shawn Johnson/WPR

In response to being called “too extreme,” Barca said that was “kind of hysterical.”

“I’ve always been a pro-business, fiscally conservative Democrat,” Barca said. “I fit the district perfectly in my estimation.”

Barca was also joined by Mahlon Mitchell, the president of the Wisconsin Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin.

“We stand with Peter Barca, because we know he stands with us and he stands with the working men of this great state, this great district and he’s proven it time and time again with his work,” Mitchell said.

Wisconsin 1st Congressional District is among those Democrats hope will flip in 2024, after new electoral maps made the district more competitive.

Rep. Bryan Steil speaks among a sea of Trump supporters
Rep. Bryan Steil speaks to rally attendees Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport in Janesville. Angela Major/WPR

Steil won his re-election bid in 2020 by getting nearly 60 percent of the vote. In 2022, after his district was redrawn, he won with 54 percent.

The seat already has three other people running for it, including Lorenzo Santos, a U.S. Navy Reserve officer, and Anthony Hammes, a trustee of the village of Caledonia.  The primary for the race will be held on August 13.

Barca said if elected, he will work to grow the middle class, defend reproductive freedom and the right to vote and protect Social Security and Medicare.