On paper Ron Kind is the ideal Democrat to run against Scott Walker.
The congressman from La Crosse has won no less than 11 elections from a rural district in southwest Wisconsin. That district voted for Barack Obama twice but went with Donald Trump this time. Yet Kind was so solid that Republicans didn’t even bother to run a candidate against him. Kind routinely garners around 200,000 votes, giving him a significant base of support for a statewide run.
Kind’s family has deep roots in that rural part of the state. He’s the fifth generation of Kinds in southwest Wisconsin. His father was a telephone company repairman and a union leader, and his mother was a public school district employee. As a college student he worked for the revered maverick Wisconsin Sen. Bill Proxmire, and after law school he became a prosecutor before being elected to Congress.
The only blemish on his resume is that he also went to Harvard and the London School of Economics, but he played football at Harvard, so that has to be taken into account as a mitigating factor.
Democrats will do well in Dane and Milwaukee counties just because they’re not Republicans, but in order to win back the governor’s office they have to do much better in rural Wisconsin. Kind seems like a candidate tailor-made for that purpose.
But he is also extremely cautious. He’s been mentioned as a potential candidate for U.S. Senate or governor in the past but never seems to get around to pulling the trigger. He’s being talked about again for governor in 2018, and he did something last week that may indicate he’s interested.
Kind was one of only four Democrats to vote against Nancy Pelosi to once again lead the minority party in the House. Pelosi is part of a disastrous and fossilized House Democratic leadership team. Each member of that team is over 76 years old and they have been responsible for taking a House majority in 2009 and turning it into a minority for four Congresses running. It is a sign of an institution at low ebb that Democrats can’t muster the votes to throw off the old leadership and start fresh.
Kind must have understood that his vote against the old leadership team was symbolic and that it would earn their enmity. So why did he do it? Possibly it’s a sign that he doesn’t see his future in the House anymore. Maybe he’s seriously considering a run for governor against Walker.
On the other hand, Kind and Pelosi have a history of clashing. Kind has long been an opponent of farm subsidies — a courageous stance for a guy who represents a rural district. In 2007 Kind bucked Pelosi and House leadership by supporting a move to limit subsidies for those earning over $250,000 while increasing funding for conservation and rural development. Those seem like pretty reasonable proposals, and yet Pelosi actually opposed them.
The Democrats’ hope to turn Wisconsin around rests pretty much solely on winning back the governor’s office in 2018. By the numbers and by his background it would seem that Ron Kind would be among the most promising candidates to accomplish that end. Maybe his vote against his own Democratic leaders is a sign he’s willing to take on the challenge.