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Feingold defends record as 'career politician'

Scott Bauer

Sen. Russ Feingold defended himself as a "career politician" on Wednesday, challenging his Republican opponent to explain to him in person why that's such a bad thing.

Feingold said at a news conference that Republican Ron Johnson's frequent use of the description in a derogatory way is unoriginal and falsely implies that being dedicated to public service is "somehow an awful thing."

"This man's campaign so far appears to be the constant repetition of a phrase, 'career politician,'" Feingold said. "And it's not very original because it's basically being used in every campaign in the United States of America. What it amounts to is an attack on me and what I've chosen to do in my life."

Feingold is facing a tougher-than-anticipated challenge from Johnson, a political newcomer Republicans hope can knock off the three-term incumbent and help put the Senate back in GOP control. Polls show a tight race eight weeks from the election.

Johnson's latest television ad features people calling Feingold a career politician. Johnson spokeswoman Sara Sendek said it's a negative description because Feingold has no real-world experience with a business or creating jobs.

"He's out of touch with the hardships that the people of Wisconsin have to face each day," Sendek said.

Johnson's ad falsely claims that Feingold never worked outside politics. Feingold was a private practice attorney from 1979 to 1985. However, for the past 28 years Feingold has been in elective office — 10 in the state Legislature and 18 in the U.S. Senate.

Another person in Johnson's ad claims Feingold is "right in the Reid-Pelosi-Obama camp," referring to Democratic leaders Harry Reid in the Senate and Nancy Pelosi in the House.

Feingold rejected that portrayal, citing his opposition to the president's bank bailout and his approach to the war in Afghanistan. Feingold did back the president's economic stimulus bill passed last year, but he's yet to get behind Obama's new $50 billion plan designed to bolster roads, runways and rail lines.

"All I can say is good luck with the claim I'm not an independent," Feingold said. "Any objective observer knows that I am. That's just a fact."

Feingold also challenged Johnson on Wednesday to six debates. Johnson, who faces nominal opposition in Tuesday's primary, hasn't committed to any.


Associated Press writer Dinesh Ramde contributed to this report from Milwaukee.

The Associated Press