RICHLAND CENTER, Wis. - Longtime Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, says he will not stand for re-election.
The moderate Republican shared his decision with WISC-TV first.
"It's better to leave while people want you to stay than the other way around," said Schultz.
Schultz says he made the decision after listening to his constituents, and discussing it with his wife and family.
He was first elected to the Assembly in 1982, then to the Senate in a special election in 1991.
At his farm near Hillpoint, he recalls telling his wife he wanted to run for office.
"She turns and goes, 'I always knew you'd do this to me,'" Schultz says with a laugh. "Then she said, 'Run and get it out of your system.'"
His stock in the capitol has risen and fallen, winning a close race for majority leader of the Senate against Scott Fitzgerald in 2004, losing that seat when Democrats took control in 2006, then becoming a swing vote in that House in the last three years of contentious bills. Schultz says his no vote on Act 10, the collective bargaining bill, was the hardest he made in 30 years.
"I would say that because it was a point in my life where I had to make a decision on what was most important: what the people of my district wanted as opposed to what would allow me to continue to be a member of the caucus in good standing," said Schultz.
Of his accomplishments, he counts among the biggest his work on the lower Wisconsin riverway and helping start the Wisconsin Eye network.
"I know how powerful television is and I know when people have the opportunity to see what's going on in the people's house that's the ultimate in accountability," said Schultz.
He laments the state of the Republican party and even says he still feels "uncomfortable" with his deciding vote last session on voter ID.
"While I certainly believe we need to safeguard the integrity of the ballot box I think we have crossed the line on a couple of occasions," said Schultz. "It's been a very uncomfortable situation for me having to vote along with the caucus because I've tried to be a good Republican."
Schultz already had a named primary opponent if he did run. Republican Rep. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green has said he will run for the 17th Senate district. Schultz says he won't endorse Marklein in the upcoming election because Marklein said he was challenging the incumbent on the issues of votes on Act 10 and the mining bill.
"I have always felt it was best to be candid and a straight-shooter with people and not having a prompter going in the back of your mind about what might be said," said Schultz.
Schultz says he has no specific future plans, but has an "active imagination" about what he might do. He won't count out running for another office, including a possible congressional bid for the 3rd district if Democrat Ron Kind makes a run for U.S. Senate.
As he begins his final year in office, Schultz says he wants his constituents to know he's thought the decision through.
"I have certainly felt the love and know how much they would like me to stay, at least most of them," said Schultz. "I hope they will recognize that sometimes it's just time to move on and that they will take hope in the future."
Schultz is one of three longtime senators to announce they won't run for the state House again this year, along with democrats Tim Cullen and Bob Jauch, who have also been considered moderates. All three senators have lamented the extremes of newer members and effect of money in politics.
- Poynette woman calls for action over million-dollar scam
- Warmer weather means construction starts on Capitol Square
- Family-owned business disputes child labor laws
- Memorial High all-school read sparks conversations about race, social justice
- DNR provides funding to remove lead service lines from homes
- Delavan man killed in motorcycle vs. tree crash, officials say