Russ Feingold and Ron Kind are two of Wisconsin's potential Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate in 2016.
I'm still sifting through the wreckage of last week's election. I promise this is the last time I'll write about it for awhile. After all, deer season is almost upon us!
Let's look forward. The 2016 election should be much better for Democrats, but who on the bench is ready to step in and run? The big race in Wisconsin, aside from the presidential election, will be for U.S. Senate as Republican incumbent Ron Johnson seeks a second term after surprising Russ Feingold in 2010.
A lot of Democrats hold out hope that Russ will try to regain his old seat. If he does, he will be a formidable candidate. But Russ seems to have left the door open; if he doesn't walk through it, who are the other options?
Rep. Ron Kind (D-La Crosse) would be a strong candidate, but he's been mentioned for statewide office many times before and has never taken the plunge. Maybe with the House in Republican hands for the foreseeable future he'll think there’s nothing to lose by trying for the Senate.
Another possibility is Mary Burke. I know she just said she'll never run for statewide office again, and I believe she means it right now. But you never know what she might think in a year or so. Burke ran a solid campaign, and she has name recognition now that won't fade that much in two years. Moreover, in a year when the national mid-term electorate was the smallest since 1944, her race generated the highest gubernatorial turnout in Wisconsin history. Whether she wants it or not, she has established herself as a more than credible statewide candidate. If Feingold and Kind don't make the race, there might be a lot of pressure on Burke to consider it.
As for governor in 2018, there might be at least three potential candidates, and I'm sure there will be more discussed over the next few years. Dane County Executive Joe Parisi is popular, widely regarded as a good chief executive, and he plays the drums. State Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) excites the liberal base. And Racine Mayor John Dickert could win back Racine and Kenosha counties, along with blue-collar voters all over the state.
Look, it's always darkest before the dawn, and if you're a Democrat right now, it's not even close to sunrise. But politics goes in cycles. The beauty of our system is that it's hard to govern, and the tough decisions that elected officials must make when they're in power expend their party's political capital at the same time. That allows the party out of power to find its way back in, and the Democrats have some potentially attractive candidates to lead the way.
Now, let's think about deer hunting.