Feingold Says No to Senate Bid in 2012

Feingold Says No to Senate Bid in 2012

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - August 19, 2011

Former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, who was ousted in last year's midterm elections, announced Friday that he won't run for retiring Sen. Herb Kohl's seat in 2012. He also said that he wouldn't be a gubernatorial candidate should Democrats in the state attempt to recall Republican Scott Walker.

In a note to supporters on the website of the political committee he founded, Progressives United, Feingold said, “I am also well aware that I have a very strong standing in the polls should I choose to run again for the U.S. Senate or in a recall election for governor. After twenty-eight continuous years as an elected official, however, I have found the past eight months to be an opportunity to look at things from a different perspective.”

A Public Policy Polling (D) survey released Thursday showed Feingold would have been the strongest Democrat in the race and that he has a high favorability rating among independents. Feingold, a liberal who was known for reaching across the aisle, most notably working with Sen. John McCain on campaign finance reform, was defeated in his bid for a third term by Republican Ron Johnson. When Kohl announced his retirement in May, speculation swirled as to whether Feingold would take another shot at serving Wisconsin in the Senate. Since his departure from the upper chamber, Feingold has been teaching at Marquette University Law School, and he is working on a book about the national response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And he founded Progressives United to combat and expose corporate influence in politics, a mission he championed in the Senate.

“Being your representative was the greatest honor of my life, a fulfillment of a dream,” he said. “But for now I am thoroughly enjoying the life of a private citizen in this great state of Wisconsin.”

Feingold’s decision opens the door for Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin, who has expressed an interest in running and is considered a strong candidate by the establishment. Democratic Rep. Ron Kind could also enter the race. On the Republican side, ex-governor and former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson is expected to run, as are former Rep. Mark Neumann and state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald.

The PPP poll showed that the Republican candidates would be competitive. Feingold led Thompson by only one point. He had a 51 percent to 44 percent lead over Neumann. Thompson and Neumann both held narrow leads over the other Democratic contenders.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported the news of Feingold’s decision Friday. 

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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