September 15, 2011 at 5:16 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Path clearer for Baldwin to claim Democratic banner
Tammy Baldwin

U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The path is more clear for Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) to claim the Democratic nomination to run for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin now that a potential opponent has said he won’t seek the office.

Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), an eight-term House member, said Thursday in a statement to Politico that he won’t pursue the seat that retiring Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) is vacating next year.

“I have been urged by many across Wisconsin to run for Senate. I thank them sincerely for their steadfast support and their trust in my commitment to put solving peoples’ problems first and foremost,” Kind was quoted as saying. “But that commitment has lead me to this conclusion: Now is not my time to run for the U.S. Senate.”

Kind had been named as a potential challenger to Baldwin, the only out lesbian in Congress, in her effort to become the next U.S. senator from Wisconsin. If Baldwin wins, she’ll become the first openly gay U.S. senator.

Had Kind entered the race, he could have faced an uphill battle. Recent polling shows Baldwin beating Kind in a hypothetical Democratic primary. Additionally, Baldwin has significantly more funds in her coffers compared to Kind, according to the most recent Federal Election Commission reports. After the second quarter, Baldwin posted $1.1 million in cash on hand. Comparatively, Kind had $478,000.

Chuck Wolfe, CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, said in a statement Kind’s decision was welcome news. His organization has endorsed Baldwin upon her announcement last week.

”It was a gracious thing for him to do, and I think the party will coalesce around Congresswoman Baldwin as their standard-bearer in this race,” Wolfe said.

But Baldwin may not have a free ticket to the Democratic nomination. Former Congressman Steve Kagen, who last year lost his House seat during the Republican wave of Election 2010, has also been named as a potential challenger. Kagen hasn’t said publicly whether he’ll pursue the office.

The deadline for declaring candidacy for the U.S. Senate in Wisconsin hasn’t yet been set, but will likely be in July as it has been in recent years. A primary would take place in September 2012.

The only other declared candidate in the race is a GOP candidate: Mark Neumann, a former U.S. Representative and conservative Republican who recently lost the 2010 GOP primary for governor. Former Gov. Tommy Thompson is also considering a bid for the Republican nomination.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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