It’s Kind of Time

Democratic Congressman Ron Kind of La Crosse has thought about running for statewide office over and over again. He never pulls the trigger. Maybe 2022 is his time.

So, imagine that running for statewide office is a football. And those of us who have wanted Ron Kind to run for U.S. Senate or governor, we’re Charlie Brown. Who does that make Kind? Lucy.

Kind has always seemed like the perfect general election candidate for higher office. He went to Harvard, but he hides it well. (Maybe even more damning, he got his law degree from the University of Minnesota!) He was a prosecutor before being elected to Congress. He’s from a rural swing district where he wins even when Republicans are winning at the top of the ticket. He’s become an expert in agricultural issues. He looks like your high school quarterback. And his name is RON KIND, for crying out loud.

Congressman Ron Kind is the Lucy of Wisconsin politics.

Yet, I’ve lost track of the number of times that Kind has let himself be mentioned for — or said that he’s actively considering — higher office, only to pull back at the last moment, if not an even earlier moment.

But this time, at the risk of naively trusting the Lucy of Wisconsin politics yet again, I think he might actually run to replace Ron Johnson in the Senate. It’s not so much the pull of the Senate, but the push out of the House that makes me think that.

Kind is from a district that went for Donald Trump in 2016 but he was lucky to have no opponent that year. Kind won easily in 2018, but the Republicans were in power in that off year election so it was going to be good for Democrats no matter what. In 2020 he barely survived, winning by less than three points. He might figure that his tight race last time and the prospects for a good Republican year in 2022, when they will be the party out of power in an off year election, make him likely to lose his seat. So, why not try for the Senate instead? The risk averse Kind may decide that the lesser risk is actually in trying to move up.

For those of us who want to see the Democrats take back this seat, let’s hope Kind takes the plunge this time. He’s the experienced moderate with the best chance of winning.

I also like Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, who has already announced. Nelson has served as Assembly Majority Leader and, for the last ten years, he’s been running one of the state’s larger counties. He also wins in a Republican stronghold. He has both the experience to justify his ambition and the proven political smarts to pull it off.

By contrast, the other announced Democrat, Alex Lasry, 33, has no government experience. He is only a credible candidate because his father is a hedge fund billionaire who owns the Milwaukee Bucks. Alex Lasry had never even stepped foot in Wisconsin until 2008. This is just another bauble. Got more money then you know what to do with? Buy a pro sports franchise. Get bored with that toy? Oh, hey, it might be fun to buy the kid a U.S. Senate seat. Lasry would be pummeled by any Republican in the general election.

And here’s the weird thing about the Lasry candidacy. Democratic insiders like him because of his father’s money. But that makes no sense. Last year Wisconsin Democrats far outspent Republicans. Anyone who wins the nomination will have plenty of money because the Democrats are printing money these days and they badly want to win this seat.

So, Mark Lasry’s money is only relevant to his son in the primary. The result, if you think about it, is that personal wealth might buy the nomination for the weakest, most easily attacked, candidate in the field.

In a general election Kind, on the other hand, will get what he needs out of Milwaukee and Dane counties simply because he isn’t Ron Johnson or whoever the GOP puts up. He’s not beloved by the hard left party activists, but they’ll work, give money and turn out for him just to flip the seat blue.

What Kind and Nelson offer is that they can also gain votes in red or purple parts of the state whereas Lasry is a New York guy transplanted ever so briefly to Milwaukee via DC and Philly. This will not play in Potosi.

State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes and State Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) are also considering a run. But Lasry is already hard at work undercutting Barnes and Larson with their Milwaukee bases. Godlewski would have a chance at the nomination if she were the only woman in the race and her hard left politics would appeal to the progressive base, but that would be a liability in the general election.

Finally, consider just how hard this is going to be. Joe Biden won the state by barely 20,000 votes. Two years earlier Tony Evers won by just 30,000. And both Biden and Evers were moderates. Add to that the aforementioned fact that it will be a tough year for Democrats everywhere and it’s imperative that the Dems put up a moderate with strong Wisconsin roots.

That description fits Tom Nelson and Ron Kind. I would be happy with either choice, but I think that Kind, with his larger base of support in a Congressional district, would have an even better shot than Nelson. Let’s hope Lucy leaves the ball in place just this once.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

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