Kind Could Set Off Competitive Open-Seat Race

Posted August 18, 2009 at 11:55am

If Rep. Ron Kind (D) runs for governor, his western Wisconsin swing district could be a competitive battleground in 2010. Kind made his interest in running for governor known as soon as Gov. Jim Doyle (D) announced Monday that he will not run for re-election next year.“Since Governor Doyle’s decision has become public, people from around the state have contacted me and urged me to run for governor,— the seven-term Congressman said in a statement from his office. “I thank them for their support and I am considering it. In the weeks to come I will make my decision.— Kind had already attracted a notable GOP opponent in his expansive western Wisconsin district: state Sen. Dan Kapanke (R) filed his candidacy earlier this month. Kapanke represents a significant portion of the La Crosse area, where most of the 3rd district’s population resides. Two other Republicans are looking at running for the GOP nomination, according to a Wisconsin Republican who supports Kapanke. Both have either considered or explored bids for the seat in the past. State Rep. Michael Huebsch (R), who also represents part of La Crosse, might be interested. Huebsch did not immediately return a call for comment. State Rep. Kitty Rhoades (R) could also be interested in running, although she could not be reached for comment either. Unlike Kapanke and Huebsch, Rhoades is from the less populated northern part of the district. Local and national Democrats declined to speculate about any potential candidates for Kind’s seat until he officially announces a bid for governor. However, state Rep. Jennifer Shilling (D) would be a natural choice for the seat. Shilling represents part of the La Crosse area as well and has the potential to raise significant funds because she sits on the Assembly’s finance committee. A Shilling aide declined to comment when asked about her boss’s interest in running for Congress. Kind has not had a tough race since he first ran in 1996, even thought most local analysts believe the district could be competitive for Republicans. President Barack Obama carried the district with 58 percent in 2008, but Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Vice President Al Gore barely won it in the 2004 and 2000 presidential races. The district would also be a relatively inexpensive target for either party. Most of the 3rd district is reached through the La Crosse media market, which is considered cheap compared to other areas of the state.