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RACINE — After several weeks of consideration, state Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, has announced he will not enter the race for the 1st Congressional District, but will seek re-election to the seat he holds in the Assembly.

The congressional seat is currently held by House Speaker Paul Ryan, who announced in April that he will not seek re-election in November.

Barca said the late announcement by Ryan made “a possible run nearly impossible, given the head start some have and the obvious advantages Ryan will certainly provide to his hand-selected successor.”

“My No. 1 goal has always been to ensure that the citizens of our region have responsive representation that reflects our values and vision for our community, state and nation,” Barca said in a statement. “Now that I have taken the time to carefully assess this option, it would take a Herculean effort to piece together a winning campaign and would be further complicated given the prior endorsements by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and a number of key allied groups.”

Barca, 62, served in Congress for one term, 1993-95. He was defeated in the 1994 election by Mark Neumann, who served two terms in the House before being succeeded by Ryan, who has held the seat since 1999.

Barca has served two stints in the state Assembly, the first from 1985-93, the second from 2009 to the present.

Bryce, Myers running 'vibrant campaigns'

Barca said the late announcement and endorsement by other party components were factors that could have led to a divisive campaign and “might have undercut the clear, shared goal of our efforts to bring people together for the November election to bring change to both Washington, D.C. and Wisconsin.”

The two main Democratic candidates are Randy Bryce from Caledonia and Cathy Myers from Janesville, who have already met and spoken with Barca.

“It appears they both have very vibrant campaigns with strong outreach planned to continue throughout the district this summer and fall, which is essential for a winning campaign in a district as diverse as the 1st Congressional District,” Barca said. “My focus will remain on representing the 64th Assembly District and standing up for issues important to the Greater Kenosha-Racine Area such as education, employment, and training, as well as investment in infrastructure and transportation needs.”

Barca thanked his supporters who offered help on his potential congressional campaign and said he will not endorse either Bryce or Myers at this moment.

Barca added in a phone call with The Journal Times on Monday night that if either Bryce or Myers turns turn their campaign to negative attacks against their primary opponent, “I might be inclined to support the other one,” meaning he would support the person being attacked, not the attacker. 

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Ricardo Torres covers federal, state and Racine County politics along with the Village of Mount Pleasant. He bleeds Wisconsin sports teams.

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