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Moderate Republican to retire after primary challenge emerges

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Longtime Republican congressman Thomas Petri of Wisconsin will not seek re-election in November, announcing his decision just a week after a conservative state legislator revealed plans to mount a primary challenge for his seat.

Petri, 73, viewed as a moderate member of the party, will formally announce his retirement plans at a town hall meeting on Monday in Neenah, Wisconsin, his office said in a statement on Friday. It gave no details about the reason for the decision.

Glenn Grothman, a Wisconsin state senator who is considered one of the state's most conservative Republicans, said last week he would file papers to run in the eastern Wisconsin 6th congressional district.

In a statement, Grothman, said Petri had done too little to stop the growth of government and to shrink the $17.5 trillion federal debt. He added that he was troubled by the millions more people who have become dependent on food and disability aid in recent years.

"The current congressman from the 6th District is a decent, genial person; nevertheless he does not have the sense of urgency which the above statistics should engender," said Grothman, 58. "I, like others, am troubled about our country's future."

He sponsored legislation in 2012 under which Wisconsin repealed the state's equal pay enforcement law, making it harder to fight wage discrimination. He also received national attention for introducing a bill in 2012 that proposed formally designating single parenthood a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.

Petri has served in Congress since 1979 and is a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

He became the 42nd House of Representatives member to announce plans not to seek re-election in November's congressional. Those stepping down include 25 Republicans and 17 Democrats.

Republicans are widely expected to retain their control of the House in November. They currently hold 233 seats to 199 for Democrats, with three vacancies.

(Reporting By David Lawder; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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