August 19, 2011 at 3:32 pm EDT | by Phil Reese
Feingold out; door open for Baldwin Senate run
Tammy Baldwin

Tammy Baldwin is being called the "early favorite" for the 2012 Democratic Primary race for the open US Senate seat. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Russ Feingold announced this morning that he would not be entering the race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Wisconsin’s Herb Kohl in 2012; clearing the way for Rep. Tammy Baldwin to run.

Baldwin, the only openly lesbian U.S. Representative, has been expected to enter the race since Kohl’s retirement announcement in May. Many Democratic strategists believe Baldwin is likely to do well in the Democratic primary for the Senate seat because of her location, representing in the U.S. House the state capital of Madison, north to the Wisconsin Dells, and the areas south extending to the Illinois border, excluding Janesville.

Baldwin has already amassed a large coffer with which to launch her campaign, and seems ready to garner the support of some of Wisconsin’s most powerful Democratic figures in her bid. If she wins, Baldwin will be the first openly gay Senator in U.S. history.

Calling her the “early favorite,” Public Policy Polling, a Democratic survey firm, published new numbers showing Baldwin defeating House colleague and possible primary challenger Ron Kind for the party nomination. Baldwin is also expected to best former congressman Steve Kagen, according to the same poll.

If she clinches the Democratic nomination, she’s likely to face former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson or former GOP Rep. Mark Neumann.

Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund said Baldwin’s run would be the group’s top 2012 priority, should she decide to run.

“Tammy Baldwin has been an outstanding congresswoman, and she’d be an outstanding senator,” said Wolfe on the Gay Politics blog.


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