The field of potential challengers to Gov. Scott Walker in the 2014 election got a little slimmer over the weekend. Two of the state’s most prominent Democrats confirmed they weren’t interested in running for governor next year.

First, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, who has represented much of western Wisconsin since 1997, closed the door on speculation that he would step up to the challenge.

The speculation has existed since before Walker was elected in 2010, and was based on the perception that Kind’s well-established ambition for higher office, telegenic face, moderate voting record and ties to rural Wisconsin would give him a good shot at winning a general election.

Kind told the Wisconsin Radio Network, however, that he wanted to focus on his responsibilities as a congressman, citing specifically what he believes is a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to enact comprehensive tax reform.

“I don’t think I’m going to be a candidate but we gotta find someone who can be,” he said.

Russ Feingold — easily the favorite of state progressives — could be. But he won’t be.

"I don't come to you tonight as a candidate, at least not in 2013 or 2014, or 2015," the former senator told the Democratic faithful at the party’s annual convention this weekend in Oconomowoc.

What he is suggesting, of course, is that he is still considering a run for Senate in 2016 against the man who unseated him in 2010, Republican Ron Johnson.

Although Feingold has been a vocal opponent of much of Walker’s agenda since returning to private life in 2011, much of his focus has been on national or international affairs.

He founded an organization, Progressives United, which advocates for campaign finance reform and he authored a book, “While America Sleeps,” a critique of post-9/11 foreign policy. Such endeavors suggest he yearns to get back into the debate in Washington, rather than to return to statehouse politics.

Furthermore, there are a number of reasons why Feingold would have a better shot at winning back his Senate seat than winning the governorship.

First, Johnson, despite his personal wealth, is not likely to enjoy a great financial advantage over his Democratic opponent, at least not to the same extent as Walker will over his. Johnson will likely be a top target for Democrats nationally and the Democratic nominee can count on support from the national Democratic apparatus — something that is not a sure thing in the governor's race.

Second, 2016 will be a presidential election year, a situation that typically favors Democrats. Feingold lost his seat in 2010 largely due to poor turnout from Democratic voters and a wave of energized Republican voters -- meaning the electorate was disproportionately conservative. It is unclear what the dynamics of the 2014 election will be, but there's a fair chance that, like most midterm elections, it will favor Republicans.

So who might take on Walker? Names being floated include Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha; Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma; and Madison businessman Kevin Conroy.

  • Jack Craver is the Capital Times political reporter, focusing on elections, candidates and campaign finance.

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ktruth
ktruth

has been democratic hack. never really accomplished anything except in the eyes of the left. Glad he is gone. At least his replacement in the senate is helping the average taxpayer of Wisconsin and just not for a small group of people with to much time on there hands

Nav
Nav

Wisconsin voters made a grave mistake by electing Ron Johnson over Senator Russ Feingold.

They will correct that mistake in 2016 as Feingold will regain his seat back from Senator Johnson. The truth is that compared to what Feingold did in the Senate to what Senator Johnson is doing, Johnson is a midget!

Fflambeau
Fflambeau

I think Russ's time is past. Better for the Dems and the Progressives to move on under newer and younger leadership. I'm not sure Feingold knows what he stood for in his last year or two; blindly supporting Obama cost him. I think he's fishing for a Supreme Court job.

motherlode
motherlode

Ah, Johnson is a little weight, and is likely homesick by now.

But hey, WI voters get what they deserve --- vouchers for everything.
Good luck with that.

happydays
happydays

How is he going to explain promoting Obama during the election? I trusted him to stop the Patriot Act - not enhance it? I don't think that is going to fly

iponder
iponder

Ron who?

JoeBiteme
JoeBiteme

Who gives a rat's rear end what Rusty is thinking or doing.

toobad
toobad

The left worships their pols. Just count the bumper stickers on Univ. Ave.

WI_Expat
WI_Expat

Feingold was a joke even way back when he painted his garage door in Middleton to promote himself.

Outside of Madison ISO progressives, he is still a joke!

ArchieBunker
ArchieBunker

Good riddance to you to.

RichardSRussell
RichardSRussell

Feingold in 2016?

Cue the Handel.

bdholmes
bdholmes

Ugh...