The Race to Fill Retiring U.S. Senator Kohl’s Seat

On Nov. 6, 2012, Wisconsin voters will elect a new U.S. Senator to take the place of long-time Sen. Herb Kohl (D), who announced that he was retiring last May. Both parties view this seat as critical to their 2012 strategy, which means much attention, and much money will be focused on this race.

The Candidates

Democrats hope that this seat, which has been held by a Democrat since 1957, will remain blue and in the hands of U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin. Baldwin has received endorsements from Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee, former U.S. Congressmen Ross Feingold, and from Senator Kohl himself.

Meanwhile, Republicans hope to put one of their own in this seat for the first time in 55 years. The Republican primary, set for August 14, 2012, appears to be a three-man race. Jeff Fitzgerald (speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly), Mark Neumann (former U.S. Representative), and Tommy Thompson (former Wisconsin governor) top the list of Republican candidates. As of the end of February, Thompson appears to have the edge among the Republicans.

Current Polls

Further inquiry into polls taken by Marquette Law School and Public Policy Polling (PPP) in early March show Thompson in the lead. Thompson leads Neumann and Fitzgerald in both favorable and unfavorable views – which makes sense considering he has the greatest name recognition. Interestingly, moderates, who hold negative views of all three candidates, only hold favorable views of Thompson.
With the election a little over seven months away, things figure to heat up over the summer months. All we know at this point is that for the first time in nearly 24 years, someone other than Herb Kohl will hold one of Wisconsin’s two seats in the U.S. Senate.

This post was authored by Hamilton Consulting’s intern, Andrew Bassan, a 2L at the University of Wisconsin Law School.

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