Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin calls it a career

May 14, 2011
By DON WALKER AND CRAIG GILBERT - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

MILWAUKEE, Wis. — U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., said Friday he couldn’t think of anyone who had been luckier in life than him.

In the ’60s and ’70s, he was a businessman who worked for his family’s food and department store business. The family sold it for millions.

In 1985, he bought the Milwaukee Bucks, the NBA franchise he still owns today.

And since 1988, when he replaced the retiring Bill Proxmire, he has been a U.S. senator.

On Friday at a packed news conference surrounded by his Milwaukee office staff and nearly two dozen members of the Bucks’ front office, Kohl said he would not seek a fifth term as U.S. senator.

“The office doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to the people of Wisconsin, and there is something to be said for not staying in office too long,” said Kohl, 76. “I’ve always believed that it is better to leave a job too early than a little too late, and that’s how I feel today.”

Kohl’s departure from politics immediately set off a wild scramble among Democrats and Republicans to replace Kohl. Potential Senate candidates on the GOP side include House budget chair Paul Ryan, state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann and former state Sen. Ted Kanavas.

On the Democratic side, candidates could include ex-senator Russ Feingold, who lost last November to U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, U.S. House members Ron Kind and Tammy Baldwin, and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Kohl said he started thinking about leaving the Senate a few weeks ago, and made his decision. He said his health was good and he had no intention of retiring from public life.

Asked if he would have won had he decided to seek re-election to a fifth term, Kohl said, “Oh, sure.

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