2012 Senate Campaign Preview

Since U.S. Senator Herb Kohl announced he would not seek reelection there has been much speculation about who would seek to replace him. The field of likely candidates continues to grow, and both parties are expected to hold primary elections.

Likely Democratic Candidates
The big news on the Democratic side is who is not running. Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold announced he will not run in 2012, but will instead spend his time teaching, writing a book, and leading his Progressives United PAC. The Democratic survey firm Public Policy Polling recently released polling suggesting that Feingold would be the strongest candidate in the race, so his exit presumably leaves a large number of undecided Democratic voters.

Although none of them have made an official announcement, U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Madison, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind of La Crosse, and former U.S. Rep Steve Kagen of Appleton are all expected to make a final decision in the coming weeks.

Likely Republican Candidates
Yesterday, former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann announced his candidacy. Neumann represented Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District for two terms in the 1990s, but lost his seat in 1998 in a failed challenge to then-Sen. Russ Feingold. In 2010 Neumann lost the Republican primary for governor against current Governor Scott Walker.

Though he has yet to formally announce that he is running, former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson has announced the names of several members of his campaign committee. Neumann and Thompson are already going back and forth over ads run by the conservative Club for Growth that are critical of Thompson’s service as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Thompson has alleged Neumann was responsible for the ads, but Neumann has denied any involvement.

A third possible candidate is Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon. Over the weekend, Fitzgerald postulated that his work in Wisconsin over the past year would serve him well when it comes to addressing similar issues in Washington.

Sen. Frank Lasee, R-De Pere and former state Sen. Ted Kanavas have also been mentioned as potential candidates.

Party primary elections will take place in late summer, and the general election will occur November 6, 2012.