Candidates Vying For Petri’s Seat In Congress Spar In First Debate

Grothman, Harris Butt Heads Over Immigration, Budgetary Issues

Mark Harris, left, and Glenn Grothman, right. Photos from the candidates' Facebook pages.

The candidates vying for the seat that U.S. Rep. Tom Petri is vacating after 35 years in Congress sparred over topics including immigration policy and budgetary issues on Monday at their first debate.

State Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-Campbellsport, and Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris are competing in the 6th Congressional District, which has the only open seat in the state. Grothman, who has often been in the headlines for controversial statements about women and racial minorities, said at the forum in Fond du Lac that immigration laws have not been enforced.

“Right now, the United States is going to become a welfare magnet for the rest of the Western Hemisphere. It would be nice to say we’re going to help anybody who needs help anywhere around the world, but obviously if we’re going to do that, we’re going to sink our country,” said Grothman.

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Grothman said immigrants from Central America who have been coming into Texas should be deported, but that the U.S. should develop a policy that allows foreign workers on farms and immigrant investors in places like Silicon Valley to remain.

Harris said that if he’s elected to Congress, he’d try to help people who are refugees.

“One unique thing we could try is establishing safe houses on property back in their native countries that are effectively part of the U.S. embassy. Those children could be held there while their status is determined,” said Harris.

Harris also attacked Grothman for the state’s projected structural budget deficit, and said he’s proposed balanced budgets and achieved small spending cuts in Winnebago County.

Grothman also criticized Harris for signing the recall petition against Gov. Scott Walker. Harris said he did so because Walker’s policies hurt the county and its many public employees in and around Oshkosh.