When we last saw Scott Klug, he was chasing down the bad guys as an investigative reporter for WJLA-TV. Now -- in a whirlwind two years -- he has gone from being a big-shot Washington journalist to a local anchorman in Wisconsin, to a graduate student and now back to Washington in an unexpected career shift.
Welcome back, Congressman Klug.
On Tuesday, the 37-year-old newcomer beat Democratic incumbent Robert Kastenmeier for Wisconsin's 2nd District congressional seat. Klug -- whose last political foray was for student council president in high school -- upset Kastenmeier, who held the seat for 32 years.
After six years at Channel 7, Klug left Washington in 1988 for his native Wisconsin. This spring he quit as anchor of WKOW-TV in Madison -- the No. 1 newscast in the district -- and jumped to the other side of the microphone as the Republican candidate against Kastenmeier.
"Right before he announced, the state Democratic leadership said, 'Nice-looking guy. But can he walk and talk at the same time?' " laughed Paul Markowski, Klug's campaign manager. "And the press was really intrigued. It was kind of like watching one of their own."
(Trend watchers: Will journalists next run and cover their own campaigns?)
To his credit, Klug (who, when asked if he was indeed just another pretty face, described himself as "certainly attractive but I don't think women faint when I walk in a room") admitted that years on television could be considered a political asset. He was, of course, comfortable with reporters. And name recognition was no problem for the voters who had watched his pearly whites for the past two years. "When people invite you into their homes every evening," he said, "there's a certain comfort level."
Klug grew up in Milwaukee and worked at television stations in Wausau, Wis., and Seattle before coming to Washington in 1981. At WJLA-TV he led the I-Team, the station's award-winning investigative unit.
He left because "I simply was burned out," he said. He started thinking about other careers. "Actually, what I wanted to do was to get into magazine publishing." Klug accepted the television job in Madison while pursuing an MBA at the University of Wisconsin.
So Scott, how did you end up in politics?
"Somebody asked," said Klug yesterday.
Last fall, over beer and pizza, friends asked him what he was going to do after he completed his MBA. Spend time with his wife and kids, he said. Had he ever thought about running for office? Well, no, but now that they mentioned it ...
Turns out Klug was sort of ticked off at Congress. He described his campaign as "basically populist, anti-incumbent" with a big emphasis on term limitation: a total of 12 years, House or Senate. Instead of attacking, he was easy on his opponent but hard on Washington. He was the only challenger who defeated any of Wisconsin's incumbent congressmen, and spent only $170,000 to Kastenmeier's $400,000.
"I think people looked back and said 'Bob's a nice guy but 32 years is too long for anyone to be in office,' " said Klug.
Klug's campaign founded the 32 Club. It cost $32 to join, with an additional $12 if supporters agreed with his idea on term limitations. Lapel pins with a "No 32" symbol were the hot souvenir of the race. "About five people tried to tear one off my coat last night," said Markowski.
Klug spent yesterday fielding calls from old friends, the press and one other well-wisher from Washington: President Bush, who called to say he was looking forward to having him on his team.
But if two more years in Washington are enough for Klug, he has a standing offer from Bob Reichblum, his former boss at Channel 7 who is now at a television station in Miami.
"Bob called me and said, 'If this political thing blows over, you can always come and live in Florida.' "