Rep. Ron Kind to Retire

Wisconsin Rep. Ron Kind (D-La Crosse)

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 12, 2021 — Veteran Wisconsin Congressman Ron Kind (D-La Crosse) said Tuesday that 26 years in the House of Representatives will be enough. He told the covering reporters that he is “out of gas,” and will not seek re-election in 2022. Kind was first elected to his southwestern Badger State congressional district in 1996.

In his remarks, the congressman said he is ” . . . part of a dying breed in public service today in Washington and certainly in Madison — someone who tried to be reasonable, pragmatic, thoughtful, worked hard to try to find common ground with my colleagues, work in a bipartisan way to find bipartisan solutions for the challenges that we face.”

Wisconsin’s 3rd District is one of seven seats in the country that voted for ex-President Trump in both 2020 and 2016 (Trump ’20: 51-47 percent; Trump ’16: 49-45 percent) and elects a Democrat to the House. Kind’s 2020 election percentage margin, 51-49, was the closest of his long career. Over his 11 re-election campaigns not including 2020, the long-time incumbent averaged 64.8 percent of the general election vote.

Rep. Kind’s 2020 November opponent, retired Navy SEAL Derrick Van Orden (R), had already announced his return for a re-match and had raised just over $750,000 since the beginning of this year, holding more than $600,000 in his campaign account according to the June 30 financial disclosure report. Despite his retirement announcement, Kind had been active in raising money, bringing in over $630,000 since the beginning of the year and was in strong financial shape with just under $1.4 million in the bank at the June 30 reporting deadline.

Therefore, and considering his active work in the district this year, the retirement announcement comes as a surprise. Examining the district’s recent changing voting history, since the electorate posted 55 percent for President Obama in 2012 to Rep. Kind having a close re-election eight years later, WI-3 likely becomes the Republicans’ top national conversion target, at least for the short term.

The 3rd District sits in the far western corner of the state, beginning at the southwestern tip of the Wisconsin southern border, just across the Mississippi River from Dubuque, Iowa. It then travels northward up the Iowa and Minnesota borders to encompass its two population anchor cities of La Crosse and Eau Claire, that house just over 52,000 and 67,000 individuals, respectively. The district then moves east to capture some of the central Wisconsin rural areas.

Redistricting should not be a major issue, here. All eight of Wisconsin’s seats are secure from a population perspective, with the 3rd District likely closest to the eventual population number that appears unofficially and preliminarily to be 727,804 individuals per Badger State CD. Six of the eight appear to be within just a few thousand people of the target number, thus the statewide congressional map won’t likely change a great deal.

Considering Republicans control the legislature and Democrats have the governorship, producing a map with only minor changes will probably enhance the possibility of the two sides coming together in agreeing to a new plan.

Not counting the three vacant house seats, all in special elections (OH-11, Fudge; OH-15, Stivers; FL-20, Hastings), 16 districts are now open for the 2020 regular election cycle. Both parties’ risk eight seats apiece.

Until the Democratic succession candidate picture becomes clearer, it would be reasonable to project the Republicans as having the advantage toward converting this Wisconsin seat, likely making it the most probable of all the open seats to switch parties. The other two most competitive opens appear to be PA-17 (Rep. Conor Lamb-D) and NY-1 (Rep. Lee Zeldin-R).

The Pittsburgh-anchored PA-17 could be a strong candidate for elimination now that it will be open, since Pennsylvania loses a seat in reapportionment. NY-1 has generally performed as a Republican seat, but the Democrats are fielding several strong candidates and early action on the GOP side has been very slow. Thus, the Long Island Democrats should be viewed as having at least a slight early edge.

Expect to be hearing much more from southwestern Wisconsin during this election cycle, as a hot open congressional race will be forthcoming.

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