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Kohl won't run for re-election

MILWAUKEE - Wisconsin's senior U.S. senator will not run for re-election next year.

Democrat Herb Kohl made the announcement at 11 a.m. today in his hometown of Milwaukee. Kohl, 76, will step down after his current term ends in January 2013.

This would be the first open U.S. Senate election in Wisconsin since 1988, when Bill Proxmire stepped down and Kohl replaced him.

Kohl made millions while building up his family's grocery store and department store chains. In 1985 he endeared himself to Wisconsin's pro basketball fans by buying the Milwaukee Bucks and keeping them from moving to Minneapolis. In 1988 Kohl proclaimed he was "nobody's senator but yours" when he was elected to the Senate as a Democrat. No Republican has come close to defeating him since.

This is Kohl's fourth six-year term.

Speculation has already begun on who would try to replace him. The Journal Sentinel says Republican state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald is exploring it. The paper also mentions Mark Neumann, who lost the GOP primary to Senate Republican Ron Johnson last year, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and House budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Janesville, though Ryan recently downplayed that possibility.

Russ Feingold - who lost to Johnson last fall after 18 years in the Senate - could make a comeback, although he recently said he wished Kohl would run again. The Journal-Sentinel also mentions House Democrats Ron Kind of La Crosse and Tammy Baldwin of Madison as possible Senate hopefuls. Kind looked at running for governor last year and decided against it.