Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin ruled out a political comeback next year in a statement posted on his political action committee’s website on Friday.
Feingold, who was defeated in a bid for a fourth term in 2010 — losing to Tea Party-backed Republican Ron Johnson by slightly more than 100,000 votes — had been viewed as an early favorite for the Democratic nomination to replace retiring four-term Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl, who announced his retirement earlier this year. Feingold also had been frequently mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate in the event Wisconsin Democrats force a recall election against Republican Gov. Scott Walker next year.
Having spent 28 years in elective office, the 58-year-old Feingold said that he has enjoyed the past eight months as a private citizen and isn’t eager to give it up, adding that it has given him an opportunity “to look at things from a different perspective.”
The former Senator thought long and hard about both races.
“This was a difficult decision, as I thoroughly enjoyed my tenure in both the state Senate and the U.S. Senate, and I know that progressives are eager to reverse some of the outrageous policies being pursued by corporate interests at both the state and federal levels,” said Feingold in announcing his decision.
Feingold, who is currently teaching full-time at Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, said that he plans to play an active role in the 2012 election cycle and will continue to fight for progressive causes through Progressives United, an organization he founded in February devoted to overturning the controversial Citizens United Supreme Court ruling allowing outside groups to accept unlimited corporate contributions.
“In many ways, this is the overriding political struggle of our time,” explained Feingold.
In addition to teaching at Marquette since leaving the Senate, Feingold has also been busy writing a book, While America Sleeps, a critique of the U.S. response to the attacks of 9/11 and related foreign policy issues scheduled for publication in February.
Feingold’s decision not to enter Wisconsin’s 2012 U.S. Senate race leaves a wide open field in both parties.
Former Gov. Tommy Thompson and ex-congressman Mark Neumann are widely viewed as the early front-runners on the Republican side while U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay non-incumbent to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, is now viewed as a slight favorite among the Democrats in a field that’s expected to include U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, ex-Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and former congressman Steve Kagen, an Appleton physician who was soundly defeated by Republican Reid Ribble in his bid for a third term last November.