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Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl to Retire

Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl to Retire

By Alex Katz - May 13, 2011

Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl will announce Friday that he won't pursue re-election in 2012, making him the eighth senator -- and fifth Democrat -- to retire this cycle.

The move will set up a fiercely contested open-seat race in a state that has become a national political hotbed in the wake of Republican Gov. Scott Walker's highly publicized fight with the unions over collective bargaining.

As Democrats look to retain Kohl's seat in 2012, one leading candidate is expected to be former Sen. Russ Feingold. The three-term senator was upended in his bid for re-election last November by businessman Ron Johnson. Other potential Democratic candidates include Rep. Ron Kind, Rep. Tammy Baldwin and 2010 candidate for governor Tom Barrett.

National Republicans meanwhile called the open seat a "prime pickup opportunity" for them in 2012.

"Senator Kohl's retirement, just like his Democrat colleagues who stepped aside before him, immediately presents another key opportunity for Senate Republicans next year," said Brian Walsh, communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, in a press release. "It also further dilutes the ability of national Democrats to go on offense, while they fight to maintain their dwindling Senate majority."

The GOP could very well look to Rep. Paul Ryan. However, it's uncertain whether he would want to abandon his post as chairman of the House Budget Committee to make a run for the Senate.

Before Kohl's announcement, former Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Neumann had said he was considering a bid.

Kohl, who has served in the Senate since 1989, was a member of the Appropriations Committee, the Judiciary Committee and the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. Most recently, he was named chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging. Before entering politics, Kohl helped run his successful family business, Kohl's department stores, and in 1985 purchased the Milwaukee Bucks. He attended the University of Wisconsin and Harvard Business School.

Alex Katz

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