Tom Petri
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Tom Petri

Tom Petri American politician

American politician
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro American politician
Countries United States of America
Occupations Politician Lawyer
Type Law Politics
Gender male
Birth 28 May 1940 (Marinette)
Spouse: Anne D. Neal
Education Harvard Law School, Harvard University, Fond du Lac High School
The details

Thomas Evert Petri (born May 28, 1940) is an American politician who was the U.S. Representative for Wisconsin's 6th congressional district from 1979 to 2015. He is a member of the Republican Party.

Early life

Petri was born in Marinette, Wisconsin. When he was a toddler, his father, a Navy flyer and lieutenant during World War II, was lost during a mission over the Atlantic. Petri, his infant brother, and his widowed mother moved to Fond du Lac, where Petri's mother taught in the Fond du Lac public schools. He represented his high school as a delegate to the youth government and leadership program Badger Boys State in 1957.

He graduated from Goodrich High School in Fond du Lac. Petri then attended Harvard University, where he received his Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degrees.

He was one of the founders of the Ripon Society, a public policy organization aligned with the Republican Party.

He served as a volunteer with the Peace Corps in Somalia from 1966-1967.

Early political career

Wisconsin Senate

Petri served in the Wisconsin State Senate from 1973 to 1979.

1974 U.S. Senate election

Petri ran for the U.S. Senate in 1974. He won the Republican primary with 85% of the vote. During the campaign, Petri walked across the state of Wisconsin as part of his grassroots strategy. In the general election, incumbent Democrat U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson defeated Petri 62%–36%. Petri took five of 72 counties in the state.

U.S. House of Representatives


In 1979, he won a special election to finish the term of the late U.S. Congressman William A. Steiger, who had died shortly after being re-elected in 1978. He won the seat in his own right in 1980 and was reelected 16 times. He only won re-election with less than 64% once, in 1992. That year, he defeated State Representative Peg Lautenschlager 53% to 47%. He won ten of the district's thirteen counties. He lost Manitowoc, Brown, and Outagamie counties. He ran unopposed in 1990, 1994, 2002, and 2006. He faced no major-party opposition in 1986 and 1998. In April 2014, Petri announced he would not seek re-election in November 2014.


Petri was a member of The Republican Main Street Partnership and supports stem-cell research, although he generally opposes abortion. He called for a moratorium on the death penalty, but voted against other restrictions on it. Petri was a member of the moderate Republican conference, The Tuesday Group, and received a $10,000 contribution from the group in 2008 and $5,000 in 2012.

Petri was the author and sponsor of three surface transportation laws. He supported the laws that eliminated the 55-miles-per-hour speed limit and eliminated the Interstate Commerce Commission.

Petri's three largest contributors in the 2012 campaign cycle were labor unions. He voted for Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) and twice voted to allow the use of PLAs in government contracts. Petri also voted to permit the use of taxpayer funds to comply with the Davis-Bacon Act, voted to use federal funds for collective bargaining by the Transportation Security Administration, and voted in favor of $233 million in taxpayer funding for the National Labor Relations Board.

In 1994, Petri introduced H.R. 4469, "The Multicare Act of 1994". This bill would have established federally funded government-run health insurance programs, and would have authorized states to require an individual to purchase insurance from one of these government-run insurance plans. Petri continued to push for the passage of Multicare until 2004.

In 2005, Petri voted to fund the "Gravina Island Bridge", and voted to prevent the drilling for oil in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

In 2005, Petri introduced the Direct Loan Reward Act, and in 2006 introduced the Student Aid Reward (STAR) Act.

On November 2, 2005, Petri voted against the Online Freedom of Speech Act.

On January 18, 2007 Petri voted in favor of HR 6, which made it more difficult to obtain a lease to drill for oil domestically.

Petri endorsed Mitt Romney in the 2008 GOP presidential primary. He subsequently endorsed John McCain in the 2008 presidential election.

In 2011, Petri sponsored an amendment to allow Michigan-based Badger Ferry to continue operating on Lake Michigan dumping more than 500 tons of coal ash a year into the lake. He had received $14,751 in campaign donations from executives of Lake Michigan Carferry, the owner of Badger Ferry. The Environmental Protection Agency and Badger Ferry came to agreement in 2013 to modifying coal-dumping procedures within two years. Badger Ferry, the oldest continuously operating coal ferry in the United States, announced in 2015 that is would continue operating without dumping coal in Lake Michigan.

On August 1, 2011, Petri voted for the Budget Control Act of 2011, which raised the nation's debt limit and created the United States Congress Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.

Petri headed the Congressional British-American Parliamentary Exchange Group, which coordinated annual meetings between members of Congress and Parliament.

In the 112th Congress and the 113th Congress, Petri introduced the ExCEL Act, which would have created a universal income-contingent student loan repayment process, where students repaid loans based on their after college earnings. Petri's bill received bipartisan and bicameral support.

In 2012, Petri introduced H.R. 4148, the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway National Heritage Area Act of 2012, which would place 1,444 square miles of land in Wisconsin under the control of the federal government.

In 2014, Petri was investigated for advocating for a constituent company, Oshkosh Corporation, in which he held stock. He was also under scrutiny in regard to another Wisconsin-based business, The Manitowoc Company, in which he had a financial interest. Although the Office of Congressional Ethics found reason to believe Petri violated House rules and standards, the House Ethics Committee disagreed, voting not to impose sanctions on him.

Committee assignments in final term

  • Committee on Education and Labor
    • Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education
    • Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training
  • Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
    • Subcommittee on Aviation
    • Subcommittee on Highways and Transit (Chairman)
Caucus Membership
  • Congressional Arts Caucus

Electoral history

Wisconsin's 6th congressional district: Results 1980–2012
Year Republican Votes  % Democratic Votes  % Third Party Party Votes  % Third Party Party Votes  %
1979 Tom Petri 71,715 50% Gary R. Goyke 70,492 50%
1980 Tom Petri 129,574 57% Gary R. Goyke 98,628 43%
1982 Tom Petri 111,348 65% Gordon Loeher 59,922 35%
1984 Tom Petri 170,271 76% David Iaquinta 54,266 24%
1986 Tom Petri 124,328 97% No candidate John Daggett Independent 4,268 3%
1988 Tom Petri 165,923 74% Joseph Garrett 57,552 26%
1990 Tom Petri 111,036 100% No candidate
1992 Tom Petri 143,875 53% Peggy Lautenschlager 128,232 47%
1994 Tom Petri 119,384 99% No candidate Scattering 603 1%
1996 Tom Petri 169,213 73% Floyd Brenholt 55,377 24% James Dean Libertarian 4,494 2% Timothy Farness U.S. Taxpayers 2,532 1%
1998 Tom Petri 144,144 93% No candidate Timothy Farness U.S. Taxpayers 11,267 7%
2000 Tom Petri 179,205 65% Dan Flaherty 96,125 35%
2002 Tom Petri 169,834 99% No candidate Scattering 1,327 1%
2004 Tom Petri 238,620 67% Jef Hall 107,209 30% Carol Rittenhouse Green 10,018 3%
2006 Tom Petri 201,367 99% No candidate Scattering 2,190 1%
2008 Tom Petri 221,875 64% Roger Kittelson 126,090 36%
2010 Tom Petri 183,271 71% Joe Kallas 75,926 29%
2012 Tom Petri 223,460 62% Joe Kallas 135,921 38%


Petri was honored by U.S. English, Inc. in May 2008 for his votes and co-sponsorships of official English legislation in the 110th Congress. Petri had previously sponsored legislation declaring English an official language in 1999.

In 2014, Petri received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, Japan's second highest civilian honor, for his work to improve relations between the United States and Japan.

In 2015, Petri was made an honorary officer in the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his work on trans-Atlantic issues.

Personal life

Petri and his wife, nonprofit executive Anne D. Neal, are the parents of Washington Post humor columnist Alexandra Petri.

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