Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl to Retire

BY Quinn Bowman  May 13, 2011 at 11:20 AM EDT


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Senator Herb Kohl, D-Wis., will announce Friday that he will not seek reelection in 2012, a Democratic Party source told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The retirement will put the Democratic Party in an even tougher position as it tries to maintain a majority in the Senate.

The open seat in a battleground state could offer a competitive race that otherwise would’ve been an easy hold for the Democrats. The Cook Political Report listed Kohl as a “Solid D” race. He is the sixth Democratic Senator to announce retirement this year. Two Republican Senators will also not run for their seats.

Russ Feingold, also a Democratic senator from Wisconsin, lost his seat in 2010 to newcomer and Tea Party favorite Ron Johnson.

Democrats, and the two independent senators who vote with them, control 53 seats in the Senate, while Republicans hold 47. Democrats risk losing that majority because they must defend 23 seats in 2012, while the GOP only has ten to defend. Seven of those seats held by Democrats are toss-up seats, according to the Cook Political Report.

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza breaks down the likely contenders for Kohl’s place in the Senate:

Rep. Ron Kind and well as former Sen. Russ Feingold are sure to be leading candidates for Democrats. Former Rep. Tom Barrett, who ran lost to Walker last November, as well as Reps. Tammy Baldwin and Steve Kagen are also mentioned…

For Republicans, the obvious name is Rep. Paul Ryan, the architect of House Republicans’ controversial budget plan. It’s not clear whether Ryan wants to leave his perch as chairman of the House Budget Committee to make a statewide run, however.

The political fallout from Republican governor Scott Walker’s push to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public sector unions will likely shape the environment in what is expected to be a hotly contested election.

Kohl was first elected to the Senate in 1988, and before that was involved in running his family business — Kohl’s grocery and department stores. He also owns the Milwaukee Bucks NBA team.