MADISON - U.S. Rep. Ron Kind announced
Thursday that he will not seek the Democratic nomination for governor
next year and instead intends to run for re-election for Congress.
The move gives Democrats a much better
chance at retaining his western Wisconsin congressional seat, and it
puts the spotlight back on whether Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett will
enter the governor's race.
Barrett is riding a wave of national
exposure after being assaulted on Aug. 15 when he intervened in a
domestic dispute outside the Wisconsin State Fair. Barrett was beaten
by a 20-year-old man with a tire iron and may suffer permanent damage
to his right hand.
Barrett's campaign office did not
immediately return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment Thursday.
Barrett said in August that he didn't plan to make a decision on
running for at least a month.
The state Republican Party sent an
e-mail message on Thursday morning showing that the Web site domain
name http://www.barrett2010.org/ had been reserved through the site
www.campaigncontrolcenter.com. Barrett, who has been mayor of
Milwaukee since 2004, is not up for re-election to that post until
2012. He previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives from
1992 to 2002.
Barrett and Kind served together and it
was widely rumored within Democratic circles that they did not want to
run against one another for governor. Kind said he and Barrett are
making their decisions about whether to run for governor independent
of one another.
"He has a decision to make and
when he makes it I'm sure we'll have subsequent conversation at that
point," Kind said in a conference call.
In a subsequent interview with The
Associated Press, Kind said if he had entered the race he would have
"I think I could have given the
outpouring of support I received," he said.
Kind had been making the rounds across
Wisconsin in recent weeks meeting with Democratic Party leaders and
others to discuss a potential run. Kind said not running was a hard
decision but he wanted to remain in Congress next year fighting for
health care reform.
"My work on the health care debate
cannot get done from the campaign trail," he said in a statement.
He has served the state's western 3rd
District since 1996. Republican state Sen. Dan Kapanke is running for
Kapanke issued a statement saying
Kind's decision means voters will have a clear choice in who to elect
to Congress next year.
Kind's decision will ease some worries
for national Democrats. Though his southwestern Wisconsin district is
generally Democratic leaning, some party officials worried that it
would become vulnerable to a Republican takeover if their were an open
race in the current environment. Kind, who won in 2008 with 63 percent
of the vote, is viewed as a strong favorite to hold on to the House
seat he has held since 1997.
Kind said his decision was not
influenced by national party leaders wanting him to stay and defend
his congressional seat.
"This wasn't about politics, it
wasn't about a safe seat or not a safe seat," Kind said.
"This was a personal decision that I had to make with my
National Republican Congressional
Committee spokesman Tom Erickson issued a statement saying by not
running for governor Kind had "settled on his second choice"
and now voters could hold him accountable for the federal stimulus
package and the Democrats' health care overhaul plan.
While Kind would have had to give up
his congressional seat, Barrett is midterm and wouldn't have to worry
about being out of office should he run for governor and lose.
The governor's race is wide open in
2010 for the first time in 28 years since incumbent Gov. Jim Doyle
decided against seeking a third term.
The only announced Democratic candidate
for governor currently is Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton. Lawton praised
Kind, saying she respected his service as a congressman and the
decision he made.
Mike Tate, chairman of the Wisconsin
Democratic Party, said he expects more Democrats to announce they are
running within the next four weeks.
Republicans already in the race include
Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and former U.S. Rep. Mark
Walker, the Milwaukee County executive
since 2002, raised more than $1 million through June 30. Neumann, a
real estate developer and home builder in the Milwaukee area, entered
the race in July and hasn't had to report his fundraising totals yet.
He served in Congress between 1995 and 1999.