State Sen. Frank Lasee is strongly considering running for the open Senate seat.
In an interview with Roll Call in Washington, D.C., the Republican legislator said he will likely announce his plans toward the end of the summer. He was in town meeting with the National Republican Senatorial Committee on Wednesday and with groups, including the Club for Growth, interested in picking up the seat of retiring Sen. Herb Kohl (D).
"I'm laying all the groundwork and getting ready for the race," Lasee said. "I'm doing it because I want to participate in the process."
Former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) is taking a serious look at the Senate again after opting not to challenge then-Sen. Russ Feingold (D) last year. Other names floating in Wisconsin Republican circles include former state Sen. Ted Kanavas, businessman Tim Sullivan and former Rep. Mark Neumann, who lost the gubernatorial primary last year and lost narrowly to Feingold in 1998.
Rep. Tammy Baldwin is considering a bid on the Democratic side.
Lasee said he has "long and deep ties with conservative organizations in the state." That could give him a leg up against Thompson, he said, calling the former governor "far too moderate for our time."
"He was good for Wisconsin when he was in Wisconsin," Lasee said. Thompson was governor from 1987 to 2001, until President George W. Bush appointed him secretary of Health and Human Services.
Lasee said he planned to discuss the race with Sullivan, who is CEO of a mining equipment manufacturer in south Milwaukee that is being purchased by Caterpillar. Sullivan has told Roll Call he would begin looking at the race once the deal is completed later this year.
The only person who could have kept Lasee out of the race would have been Rep. Paul Ryan (R), who plans to remain in the House, where he serves as Budget Committee chairman.
Lasee served 14 years in the state House before losing his 2008 re-election bid. He ran for an open state Senate seat last year, winning with 60 percent of the vote.
Many of his Senate colleagues could be recalled next year as a result of the bitter battle over the state budget. Lasee, who calls himself a "strong ally" of Gov. Scott Walker (R), is not eligible to be recalled because he has been in his current office for less than a year.
Lasee was born in Oceanside, Calif., where his father was stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. He was raised in the Green Bay area. He and his wife, Amy Joy, each have three daughters from previous marriages.
"We're the Brady Bunch without the boys," he said.