Longtime Democratic state Sen. Bob Jauch, of Poplar, announced Wednesday that he will retire and not seek re-election next year.
Jauch, a 31-year veteran of the Legislature, joins Sen. Tim Cullen, of Janesville, as the second Democrat to announce he will not run again. Republicans hold an 18-15 majority in the Senate. Both Cullen and Jauch come from solidly Democratic districts, making it unlikely that Republicans will pick up either seat in next year's election.
Jauch announced his intentions at a news conference in the state Capitol. Jauch, 67, was first elected to the Senate in 1986 after serving four years in the Assembly.
"This is an emotional and difficult decision to make," Jauch said in a statement. "Every day for the last 31 years I have dedicated 1,000 per cent of my effort to represent northern Wisconsin and fight for the issues that matter to them."
But Jauch said he was too tired to sustain the level of commitment necessary to represent the sprawling district that covers 7,500 square miles in northwestern Wisconsin along the Minnesota border and the shore of Lake Superior. He said he had traveled almost 750,000 miles during his more than three decades in office.
"I concluded that I don't have another 125,000 miles in my tank," he said.
Jauch was one of the 14 Senate Democrats who fled the state in 2011 in an effort to block passage of Republican Gov. Scott Walker's proposal effectively ending collective bargaining for public workers. More recently, Jauch has been an outspoken critic of the bill making it easier to open an iron ore mine in his district in the Penokee Hills.
Both Jauch and Cullen, when they announced their retirement, bemoaned the increasing partisanship in politics. Jauch said the current environment makes good governing "nearly impossible."
"Recent efforts to achieve common ground have been rejected by those who act as though compromise is a sin," Jauch said. "Moderation, which has always been a mainstay in Wisconsin politics that has led to common sense compromise serving the common good, has been suffocated by those who seek to win at any cost."
Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, of Juneau, praised Jauch.
"Northwestern Wisconsin is losing a tireless advocate for policies that protect our natural resources and maintain family supporting jobs in an area of the state that has struggled economically over the years," Fitzgerald said.