Johnson to Face Feingold; Kagen to Battle Ribble

Posted September 14, 2010 at 11:25pm

The results of Tuesday’s primaries in Wisconsin were mostly a foregone conclusion. But with the GOP nominees now official, both parties are bracing for what is expected to be a raucous general election.

The Badger State’s Senate race is expected to get top billing, and businessman Ron Johnson on Tuesday became the Republican nominee to race Sen. Russ Feingold (D).

Johnson, who earned the state GOP’s endorsement at the end of May, took 85 percent of the vote to defeat small-business owner Dave Westlake and construction worker Stephen Finn.

Johnson and Feingold have been acting like general election candidates for months, trading accusations in ads and collecting endorsements from local and national groups.

Meanwhile, roofing contractor Reid Ribble will be the Republican nominee against Rep. Steve Kagen (D) in the northeastern Wisconsin 8th district this fall.

Ribble defeated state Rep. Roger Roth and former state Rep. Terri McCormick. With 63 percent of precincts reporting, Ribble had 50 percent of the vote to Roth’s 29 percent and McCormick’s 18 percent.

Ribble has already been named to the lowest tier of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Young Guns program, and the NRCC is expected to target the race this fall.

Kagen narrowly won an open-seat race in 2006, when Republican Rep. Mark Green left to run for governor. In a tougher environment for incumbents and Democrats, Kagen may struggle against the Republican nominee. An American Action Forum poll taken about a month before the primary showed Ribble ahead of Kagen by 10 points.

The other competitive House race in Wisconsin is the open-seat 7th district contest between Democratic state Sen. Julie Lassa and Republican Sean Duffy, a former Ashland County district attorney.

Neither candidate faced a serious primary, and the race to succeed retiring Rep. David Obey heated up over the summer. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee targeted Duffy with its first independent expenditure ad at the end of August.

The only other potentially competitive race in Wisconsin is the contest between Rep. Ron Kind (D) and state Sen. Dan Kapanke (R) in the 3rd district. Kapanke, who was promoted to the second tier of the NRCC’s Young Guns program in July, easily knocked off businessman Bruce Evers in the primary.

President Barack Obama carried the district with 58 percent of the vote in the 2008 presidential election. First elected in 1996, Kind’s last competitive re-election race came in 2004. In that race, he defeated Republican Dale Schultz with 56 percent of the vote.