Former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold just broke a lot of liberal hearts by declaring that he will not be a candidate for political office next year. Progressives had hoped that the Wisconsin Democrat would either run for the Senate seat being vacated by Herb Kohl, or for governor should Democrats successfully force a recall election against the GOP’s Scott Walker:
In an email going out to supporters early Friday morning, Feingold called it a difficult decision but said he wanted to devote his time to teaching full time at Marquette Law School, finishing the book he is writing on the U.S. response to the Sept. 11 attacks and leading the political committee he founded, Progressives United.
“While I may seek elective office again someday, I have decided not to run for public office during 2012,” Feingold said in the email.
Some Democrats were looking to Feingold as perhaps their leading candidate against Walker next year in the event of a successful recall drive. His announcement ends that scenario.
Feingold’s lack of interest in running for Senate is not a big surprise.
Since he was defeated in 2010 in his bid for a fourth term, he has sent no obvious signals about a quick return to the legislative body where he served for 18 years.
“After twenty-eight continuous years as an elected official . . . I have found the past eight months to be an opportunity to look at things from a different perspective,” Feingold said in the email, saying he was “thoroughly enjoying the life of a private citizen.”
His decision leaves the Democratic Senate field wide open, though many Wisconsin Democrats will now regard U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, with her political base in vote-rich Dane County, as the early favorite for the party nomination.
On the Republican side, former Governor Tommy Thompson told a Milwaukee television station that he is preparing to campaign for Kohl’s Senate seat:
Thompson announced co-chairs of a possible senate campaign Wednesday night.
Thursday he told 12 News he’d had his eye on the Senate seat for a while.
“I’ve always had the fire in the belly,” he said. “The family was opposed to it. Now they are supportive.”
Gov. Scott Walker praised Thompson on Thursday.
“I think Tommy Thompson would be a great U.S. senator. He’s got passion,” Walker said.
“He was very effective at turning the state’s economy around a generation ago, and we certainly need people who understand jobs and reform in Washington,” Walker said.
The moderate Thompson, however, will likely have to face challengers from his right in the GOP primary. Those reportedly interested in competing for the seat include state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, State Senator Frank Lasee, former State Senator Ted Kanavas and former U.S. Congressman Mark Neumann.