Wisconsin Political Heavyweights Eye Senate Run

Wisconsin Political Heavyweights Eye Senate Run

By Scott Bauer - August 18, 2011

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Potential candidates for Wisconsin's open U.S. Senate seat, including some of the biggest names in the state's political past, are jockeying behind the scenes as the summer comes to a close and expectations rise about who will decide to get into the race and when.

Former Gov. Tommy Thompson, a Republican, and former Sen. Russ Feingold, a Democrat, are considering running for the seat being vacated by the retiring Herb Kohl. The seat has been in Democratic hands for more than 50 years and it would be a major win for Republicans as they work to pick up the four seats needed to gain majority control in the Senate.

The Wisconsin race comes in the middle of what is shaping up to be a high stakes election year for the state, which is expected to be a key part of President Barack Obama's roadmap to re-election. He won Wisconsin in 2008 by 14 points, but last year voters handed control of the governor's office and both houses of the Legislature to Republicans in the largest flip of power to conservatives in the country.

In addition to the hot Senate race and presidential contest, Wisconsin Democrats also are promising to force a recall election of Republican Gov. Scott Walker in 2012.

All of this comes after voters kicked out two Republican incumbent state senators in recall elections this month, but kept just enough GOP incumbents to leave the party with a narrow one-seat majority in the Senate.

With the recalls over, attention is now shifting to the U.S. Senate race.

The 69-year-old Thompson, a popular governor who served for 14 years but who hasn't won an election since 1998, continues to tease his supporters with signs that he is considering getting back into the fray. He named co-chairs of his campaign advisory committee this week even though he hasn't officially entered the race, another incremental step that follows him hiring political consultants and saying publically that he's seriously looking at a run.

Thompson's dalliance with yet another run for office has become an almost annual event in Wisconsin since he left President George W. Bush's cabinet, where he served as Health and Human Services secretary, in 2005.

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Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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