Herb Kohl (D-WI) is ending his career in the US Senate, creating another open seat for 2012. The announcement brings the total number of retiring senators back to eight – the early exit of John Ensign (R-NV) had taken it briefly down to seven – and puts the Democrats clearly in the unenviable lead in terms of lost incumbents.
The Republican Party is naturally pleased to have another open seat in play. Democrats are saying that in Wisconsin, the Republicans have gone over the top, particularly in the battle over public employee unions. Recall efforts are underway in-state, and the course they take may offer a glimpse into the true political climate in the state after a trying beginning to 2011.
Russ Feingold (D-WI) was Kohl’s partner in Washington before going down in defeat in 2010, and this could be a ready-made opportunity for him to stage a return effort. On the Republican side, high-profile Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is a possibility.
Democrats are losing five incumbents and independent Joe Lieberman caucuses with Democrats, upping the loss to six. Only two Republicans are exiting.
Here is the current list of retiring senators:
* Akaka, Daniel K. (D-HI)
* Bingaman, Jeff (D-NM)
* Conrad, Kent (D-ND)
* Hutchison, Kay Bailey (R-TX)
* Kohl, Herb (D-WI)
* Kyl, Jon (R-AZ)
* Lieberman, Joseph I. (I-CT)
* Webb, Jim (D-VA)