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Wisconsin Democratic senate leader won’t run for governor

By TODD RICHMOND, Associated Press

The Democratic leader in the Wisconsin Senate says she won’t run for governor in two years, saying she wants to focus on her district after sweating through a recount to retain her seat.

Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling told the La Crosse Tribune that she won’t challenge Gov. Scott Walker in 2018, telling the newspaper that she’s happy representing her district.

Shilling, of La Crosse, narrowly defeated Republican Dan Kapanke last month and had to wait out a recount to confirm a 61-vote victory.

Shilling defeated Kapanke in a 2011 recall to win the seat.

Shilling said she’s committed to rebuilding a Democratic majority in the Senate but didn’t rule out a gubernatorial run at some point.

“There will be other opportunities for me,” she told the newspaper. “You never say never.”

No Democrat has announced plans to run for governor as of Dec. 15 but a number of names have been frequently mentioned as possible candidates, including:

  • Former state Sen. Tim Cullen of Janesville
  • Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.
  • State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout of Alma
  • U.S. Rep. Ron Kind of La Crosse.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairwoman Martha Laning announced that she’ll run for the position again next year despite the outcome of the general election in the state.

In November, Donald Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate to win Wisconsin since Ronald Regan in 1984, Russ Feingold failed to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and the GOP expanded its majorities in the state Assembly and state Senate.

In a news release, Laning said she’s been traveling the state to “debrief” Democrats on the election.

Dane County Democratic Party Chairman Michael Basford said he’s considering running against Laning, saying there’s a “considerable amount of disappointment” in the party.

Glendale Mayor Bryan Kennedy, former president of the American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin, told said he, too, is considering running against Laning.

“I’m tired of us losing,” he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Former Democratic Party Chairman Joe Wineke, who lost a bid for the post to Laning in 2015, called Laning “invisible.”

“We lost everything again,” Wineke said. “I’m not sympathetic to this and I’m not supportive.”

Wisconsin GOP Chairman Brad Courtney was re-elected to another two-year term earlier this month. He was unopposed. He’s been the state GOP chairman for nearly six years.