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Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl, a four-term Democrat, will announce today that he is retiring at the end of his term in 2012, the LAT reports.He is the sixth Democratic senator to announce his retirement this year. His departure adds to the party’s struggle to maintain control of the U.S. Senate Democrats will have to defend 23 seats in 2012.
Party leaders had hoped that Kohl – a popular lawmaker who owns the Milwaukee Bucks – would run again. Wisconsin, now a major battleground state, has attracted national media attention and out-of-state political spending this year over the heated battle between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and public-sector unions.
After successfully toppling Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold in the 2010 U.S. Senate elections, Republicans are seizing on Kohl’s retirement as another opportunity to take over another Democratic seat.
“Senator Kohl’s retirement, just like his Democrat colleagues who stepped aside before him, immediately presents another key opportunity for Senate Republicans next year,” Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a statement “It also further dilutes the ability of national Democrats to go on offence, while they fight to maintain their dwindling Senate majority.”
No Republican has yet announced a bid for the seat, but Kohl’s announcement sparked immediate speculation that U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan would make a bid for the empty seat. The popular Chairman of the House Budget Committee could likely run a strong statewide campaign.
On the Democratic side, it is not clear whether Feingold will try to return to the Senate. Other possible Democratic candidates include Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who lost to Walker in the 2010 gubernatorial election, and U.S. Reps. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Kind.