Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) confirmed in a local radio interview yesterday that he will soon announce his candidacy for the state’s open US Senate seat. Thompson, who would be 71 when he takes office if elected, served 3-1/2 terms as governor, originally ousting Democratic incumbent Anthony Earl in 1986. He left in 2001 to become Health and Human Services Secretary under President George W. Bush.
The race for Senate will be his third quest for federal office. Aside from his failed 2008 presidential bid, which didn’t progress beyond the Iowa Straw Poll, Thompson ran in the 1979 special congressional election for the 6th District and placed second to Tom Petri, who continues to hold the seat today. Gov. Thompson also spent 20 years in the state assembly, rising to the position of minority leader five years prior to his first statewide victory. His average margin of victory in his four gubernatorial runs is 59.4 percent, an impressive number considering that he faced an incumbent in one of the campaigns.
The Wisconsin Senate race will be one of the hottest in the country. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2) is in for the Democrats and, unless former Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI-8) opposes her, she will become a consensus candidate. The Republicans are likely to have a tight race that will last all the way to the September primary. Aside from Thompson, ex-Rep. Mark Neumann (R-WI-1), also a former Senate nominee and gubernatorial candidate, and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald are joining the field of candidates. The race is considered to be a general election toss-up.