Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris will challenge Sen. Rick Gudex, R-Fond du Lac, to represent Wisconsin's 18th Senate District.

Harris, a Democrat, announced his intentions Wednesday in Oshkosh. He touted his experience working with both political parties in local government.

"Now, I want to take that same common sense approach to the state Senate," Harris said in a copy of his speech provided in advance. "There, I’ll work to reverse the crippling education cuts that have devastated local schools, and re-invest in our kids and classrooms. I’ll work with local businesses and entrepreneurs to encourage job growth, giving middle class families a fighting chance to get ahead."

The third-term county executive briefly toyed with a gubernatorial bid in 2014, but opted not to run an "underfunded" campaign. He ran that year against then-state Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-Campbellsport, for the Congressional seat vacated by former U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac. Grothman won with a 16-point margin.

In his prepared remarks, Harris criticized a Legislature he believes has turned its back on the "traditions and institutions that make Wisconsin a great place to live and raise a family." Harris was to emphasize the need for public education funding, continued investment in the University of Wisconsin System, making transportation infrastructure a higher priority, increasing the minimum wage and returning economic development to the pre-Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation model of the Department of Commerce.

Gudex defeated former state Sen. Jessica King, D-Oshkosh, to be elected to the Senate in 2012.

He serves as chairman of the Economic Development and Commerce Committee, vice chairman of the Workforce Development, Public Works and Military Affairs Committee and as member of the Universities and Technical Colleges Committee and the Joint Legislative Council. Gudex also serves on the WEDC board.

Gudex told reporters on Wednesday he's still deciding whether he'll seek re-election.

"Welcome, Mark Harris. That's all I have to say," Gudex said when asked about the challenge.

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Jessie Opoien is the Capital Times' opinion editor. She joined the Cap Times in 2013, covering state government and politics for the bulk of her time as a reporter. She has also covered music, culture and education in Madison and Oshkosh.

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