Rep. Ron Kind ‘out of gas,’ won’t seek a 14th term in Wisconsin

Kind is one of seven Democrats in districts that backed Donald Trump over Joe Biden

Wisconsin Rep. Ron Kind, one of seven Democrats in districts that also backed Donald Trump over Joe Biden last year, will not seek another term next year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Wisconsin Rep. Ron Kind, one of seven Democrats in districts that also backed Donald Trump over Joe Biden last year, will not seek another term next year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted August 10, 2021 at 4:47pm, Updated at 5:13pm

Wisconsin Rep. Ron Kind, a moderate, business-friendly Democrat, told reporters in the state capital Tuesday he would retire at the end of this term. Kind’s decision makes it easier for the GOP to flip his seat next year, a spokesman for a super PAC said in a statement.

“This will be my last term in office. I will not seek reelection,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel quoted Kind as saying. “I’ve run out of gas.” Politico reported earlier that he would not be running next year for what would be his 14th term.

Republicans saw Kind, 58, as a top target in 2022 and have been relentlessly attacking him. 

Kind has represented the 3rd District, a dairy-rich region encompassing  La Crosse, Eau Claire and rural areas along the state’s southwestern border, since 1997. But the district has become more conservative: After voting for President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, it went for President Donald Trump by about 5 points in 2016 and 2020. And Kind faced the first serious threat of his career in November, when he defeated Navy SEAL Derrick Van Orden by just under 3 points. 

All eight House districts in Wisconsin will be redrawn before next year’s election to reflect the results of the 2020 census, which are due to be released on Thursday. Republicans currently hold a 5-3 edge in the state.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC with close ties to House Republican leadership, spent $2 million on the 2020 race and cheered Kind’s decision Tuesday. 

“Congressman Ron Kind made the right decision to drift off into the sunset rather than face certain defeat next fall,” said CLF Communications Director Calvin Moore. “CLF’s investment in 2020 made this an imminently winnable seat for Republicans and we look forward to ensuring this seat flips Republican in 2022.”

Van Orden is running again in 2022. He has faced criticism recently for using campaign funds to attend the Jan. 6 protests that devolved into riots at the Capitol. Van Orden has said he left when it became apparent that the “protest had become a mob.” His campaign did not answer questions from the Journal Sentinel in July about “whether and how” the trip was campaign-related. 

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., called Kind an “advocate for bipartisanship and commonsense policies” and cited his work on trade and rural health care.

Ron Kind is still a young man, and I expect him to be equally successful in his next endeavor. He will, I know, continue to contribute great value to America,” Hoyer said in a statement.

Kind had nearly $1.4 million in his campaign account on June 30 after raising $631,000 since the beginning of the year.

Van Orden raised $755,000 but had only $609,000 on June 30 because Kind started the year with funds unspent from last year’s campaign.

Wisconsin is one of Democrats’ top Senate targets in 2022. GOP Sen. Ron Johnson has not yet said whether he will run for a full term, and Kind has previously not ruled out running for Senate himself. But the Democratic primary field is already crowded. Democrats in Wisconsin have been skeptical that Kind would actually jump into the race. 

“In Wisconsin, talking about running for office and never doing it is called ‘pulling a Ron Kind,’” one consultant based in the state said last week.

Potential Democratic candidates for Kind’s seat include state Sen. Brad Pfaff, former state Sen. Jennifer Shilling, former state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout and former state Rep. Dana Wachs, according to a Democratic strategist in the state. Wachs ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2018. 

Kind is one of seven Democrats representing districts that Trump won in 2020. Another one, Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos, announced in April that she would not seek another term. 

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.