Patti Wenzel

Tammy Baldwin announces candidacy for Kohl’s senate seat

By - Sep 12th, 2011 04:00 am
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Rep. Tammy Baldwin has set her sites on Sen. Herb Kohl’s soon to be vacant seat.

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin made it official last week, announcing her intention to run for the Senator Herb Kohl’s seat next November.

She was seen as the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination – she has served 12 years in Washington and has been in public service since 1986. She is among the most liberal representatives in the nation and has the full support of women and LGBT political PACs.

But her announcement will leave an empty seat in Congress, since she will be unable to run for both a Senate and Congressional seat in the same election. This gives our state another opportunity for new representation from Wisconsin. However, Baldwin represents the most Democratic and liberal district in the state, Dane County, and it is probably a sure thing that another Democrat will take over for her in Congress.

Two Wisconsin lawmakers have already announced their intentions to run for the 2nd District seat – Rep. Mark Pocan and Rep. Kelda Helen Roys, both of Madison. Both were quite vocal during the collective bargaining protests, with Roys serving as the Democratic Caucus Chair for the current legislative session.

Roys served as Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin for four years and was instrumental in helping pass the Compassionate Care for Rape Victims Act .

After being elected to the Assembly in 2008, she served as Vice-Chair of the Committee on Health and Healthcare Reform and also serves on the Elections and Campaign Finance Reform and Consumer Protection and Personal Privacy committees.  Her legislative record includes authoring bills on reproductive rights, children’s health, government accountability, workplace safety and access to the courts.

Kelda Helen Roys

Roys announcement came in the form of a press release describing that there is a “vacuum in the next generation of progressive leaders in Washington D.C.”  She added that she wants to hear from the constituents of the 2nd district about their priorities and values.

“It’s past time for Congress to focus on creating good-paying jobs now and for the future,” Roys said. “Working families throughout the 2nd Congressional District need a strong voice in Washington, now more than ever. I will be that bold, effective voice fighting for opportunity, accountability and fairness.”

Roys is married and the mother of two children.

Pocan has served in the Assembly since 1999, filling the seat vacated by Baldwin when she was elected to Congress. He announced his intention to run for the Congressional seat with great fanfare last week.

“To everyone who struggles to make ends meet, who worries about job security, who wonders whether they can pay their child’s tuition bill and keep paying the mortgage and for those of you who have tried and tried but still cannot find work: I pledge that I will go to Washington to fight for you.”

Mark Pocan

He told supporters that he lead the fight against Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-union and anti-middle class agenda that the “standing up to Paul Ryan and his brand of anti-government radicalism may well be the defining one.”

Pocan considers himself a progressive Democrat and has championed corrections reform, education funding, fighting privatization of government services and the legalization of gay marriage. He is the only openly gay member of the Assembly and married his partner in 2006.

State Sen. Jon Erpenbach  of Middleton is also considering a run for the 2nd district seat, but so far he has not made an announcement. If he did run, he has the most national exposure of the potential Democratic candidates, having become the face of the Wisconsin 14 on many cable talk shows during the senator’s walk out in March.

Does the GOP have a chance? 

As for Republicans jumping into the Congressional race, it is highly unlikely anyone will surface. The 2nd district is one of the most liberal in the state and has a voting rating of D+15 in the Cook Partisan poll, meaning that a Democrat is favored to win an election in the district by at least 15 points.

Prior to Baldwin, the district was represented by a Republican, Scott Klug. But before that, Democrat Robert Kastenmeier served the district for 32 years. However,  after the 2000 census the district was realigned to be as safe Democratic seat. Since then, Baldwin has defeated the Republican challenger by more than 20 points.

The most recent candidates have left much to be desired. Chad Lee, who ran against Baldwin in 2010, had no plan where he would make cuts in the federal budget, but claimed his cutting of employees cell phone bills in his cleaning business made him qualified to work at the national level.

There is one Republican in the district, a rarity in the 2nd, that could step up – Brett Davis. A candidate for Lt. Governor in 2010, Davis has work as a legislative aid in Madison and as an advisor to Tommy Thompson when he served as governor and in the Bush administration. He also served in the state Assembly for six years.

But in Madison, Beloit and other union strongholds, 2012 may not be the year for a Repubican candidate, especially when Democrats are sure to run on their records against Walker and the GOP.

As for who the Democrats will choose, there is already question of who the  major political PACs will back. Baldwin has received support from the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and EMILY’s List, but those groups may take sides. Roy’s has been supported by EMILY’s List in the past and the PAC often backs women who support abortion rights.

Pocan has worked closely with the GLVF, but they have yet to publicly endorse him.

That split may leave an opening for Erpenbach if he chooses to jump in, but for now, the only prediction I’ll make is that a Democrat will continue to represent Wisconsin’s 2nd district in the future.

Lead image from Whitehouse.gov by Joyce N. Boghosian

Categories: Politics

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