Don’t look now, but the 2012 election season has started

“I’ve always believed that it’s better to leave a job a little too early than a little too late,” said Wisconsin’s senior U.S. Senator, Herb Kohl, as he announced Friday that he would not seek another term in 2012. “And that’s how I feel today. The interest and energy I have for this job will find a new home at the conclusion of this term.”

By early afternoon, the first e-mail had arrived:

“Thankfully, there’s a progressive champion waiting in the wings to step up and keep this seat for the Democrats in 2012: Russ Feingold.”

It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few weeks. Former Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton told me she “won’t be coming out of the woodwork” when I asked her about Kohl’s announcement. It had seemed to me like the senator was gearing up for a run at a fifth term. He had put some money into his campaign fund at the end of 2010, picked up former Doyle northwoods representative Bryce Luchterhand to pick up his presence a bit, and I thought I was seeing more news releases. Perhaps Kohl was just assuming the position that the November 2010 elections had given him by default: that of the most prominent elected official in Wisconsin for the Democrats.  There was an interesting poll in March that took an early look at the GOP’s prospects.  It’s clear that GOP Congressman Paul Ryan would start from behind, with or without Kohl in the picture:

http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/PPP_Release_WI_03020330.pdf 

But while speculation on a possible successor is rampant on both sides of the aisle, my early take is that it may behoove potential candidates to get a reading on things with the summer recall elections. The biggest winner so far: media companies that will reap additional millions in what is already shaping up to be a tremendously expensive cycle for both parties in the Badger State. With an open U.S. Senate seat up for grabs, two GOP freshman in Congress, the Presidential race and the politically-charged environment created by the Walker administration and the Fitzgerald brothers in the legislature, Wisconsin will be one of the biggest battleground states in the country next year.

Speaking of potentially big races and memories of Barbara Lawton, Kevin Shibilski may be angling for a shot at Congressman Sean Duffy in the 7th Congressional District. This will create an interesting dynamic, since Shibilski figured prominently in a snit with Julie Lassa back when Lassa was first running for the 24th Senate District in an April 2003 special election. It was a pretty big embarrassment for then Governor Doyle. Shibilski ended up leaving as Tourism secretary after a short stint – and that came after he was drummed out as a prohibitive favorite to be lieutenant governor on Doyle’s ticket in 2002; the spot that Lawton ended up taking. Here’s a little review of the Alex Paul brawl that many felt played a big role and there are more:

http://www.wisconsinreport.com/archives/2003/resignation.htm

Here’s another:  http://www.fightingbob.com/article.cfm?articleID=101

Ironically, it was felt at the time that Alex Paul was trying to work his way into a position to eventually replace U.S. Congressman Dave Obey. Lassa ended up being the one getting the shot last year, but it turned out to be about the worst year ever to run as a Democrat for just about anything. With Shibiliski possibly returning to the political scene, it will be interesting to see if his self-imposed exile will be deemed sufficient. (My guess: probably not – at least for many. Lassa may not have energized the base, but Shibilski may energize them in a way that won’t be helpful to him. One possibility: change the spelling to the traditional “Pryzbylski” and it would make the whole thing a lot more difficult to Google.)

As for the 8th, freshman GOP Congressman Reid Ribble may be able to get a little feel for the red-blue backdrop with three state senate recalls coming up this summer in parts of his district. (Has anybody heard from Reid?)

In other mid-Wisconsin political news, State Sen. Pam Galloway and the Senate Judiciary, Utilities, Commerce and Government Operations Committee had a hearing at UWMC in Wausau this week on Galloway’s bill to allow concealed carry in Wisconsin. (Don’t ask what this has to do with any of the items in the committee title because I have no idea.) The event brought a lot of folks to the campus and not surprisingly, there was overwhelming support at the hearing.

Personally – and I say this as a person who has no particular problem with owning guns – I think this is a curious priority right now. I would also observe that for someone who thinks concealed weapons are a great idea for a signature issue, there sure were a lot of Wisconsin State Patrol members on hand for the hearing. (I don’t think they were there to testify, with Pappa Fitzgerald now being in charge of that agency and all.)

One version of the bill would require essentially nothing in the area training or paperwork. Paired up with new barriers that the GOP will be erecting to qualify for voting in elections, it will create a rather interesting picture of what they think about the administration of constitutional rights.

* * *

Finally, don’t you wish you could blog with the best and have influence over the political process? Well, your chance has come! The non-partisan, non-profit, totally educational and tax deductible Americans for Prosperity FOUNDATION is sponsoring “RightOnline” June 17-18 in Minneapolis. You’ll be able to hear from luminaries like Andrew Breitbart, Michelle Malkin, Michele Bachmann and more:

www.RightOnline.com

As always, bus transportation will be available (and also as always, you can thank the Koch brothers.)

JR

UPDATE: Tommy Thompson expected to join U.S. Senate race:

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0511/55108.html 

UPDATE: Public Policy Polling shows Feingold in strong position:

http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/PPP_Release_WI_0524930.pdf

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2 Responses to “Don’t look now, but the 2012 election season has started”

  1. does any one remember the “good ol’ days” when election season did NOT start the day after the previous election??

  2. Harvey S. Scholfield Says:

    I’ve always said… the only thing a pistol will do… is get a person into trouble…

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