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Kind may run for governor

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind talks with members of the Star-Observer staff during an Aug. 19 visit to Hudson. Photo by Randy Hanson

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind says he doesn't have a lot of time to waste in deciding whether or not to run for governor of Wisconsin.

"We're going to vet this and take a serious look at the gubernatorial campaign, and then make a decision as quickly as we can - understanding that time is not on my side," the La Crosse Democrat said during a visit to Hudson on Wednesday, Aug. 19.

The visit to the Star-Observer office came three days after Gov. Jim Doyle announced that he won't seek a third term.

Kind acknowledged that he doesn't have the name recognition on the eastern side of the state that his potential opponents have.

"I (would) have a lot of work to do to organize throughout the state and get my message out," he said. "And there's some fund-raising involved, too."

Doyle's announcement opened the field to Democrats interested in replacing him.

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnist Daniel Bice in a piece in Sunday's newspaper identified Kind and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett as the top two Democrats in the field.

Kind "sounds like he's raring to go," Bice wrote, while Barrett, who is better known, isn't as enthusiastic.

Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton has already announced her candidacy. State Sen. Jon Erpenbach of Waunakee is another Democrat said to be pondering a run for governor.

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann are the leading candidates on the Republican side.

"There really has been an outpouring of people from across the state who have contacted me in the past 72 hours, encouraging me to jump in the race for governor," Kind said.

He said Doyle's decision not to run has given the state an opportunity to have a "look-forward" campaign instead of a "look-back" campaign.

Kind said voters in the 2010 gubernatorial election will decide what the state's agenda should be and what policies are needed to grow the economy.

"We can be a leader on the cutting edge of scientific and medical and technological studies," he said. "We are positioned to become a Silicon Valley - the Middle East of alternative, renewable energy. These are good-paying jobs that can't be exported."

The 46-year-old Kind has represented Wisconsin's Third District in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1997.

He grew up in La Crosse, where his father was a telephone repairman and his mother worked as a school secretary.

After graduating from La Crosse Logan High School, Kind attended Harvard University on academic and football scholarships. He was the starting quarterback for the Crimson Tide until suffering a career-ending injury midway through his junior year.

He was as ready to talk about football (Brett Favre in particular) during his visit to the Star-Observer office as he was about politics and health care reform (the original purpose of the visit).

"I can understand someone at that high caliber of performance wanting to continue to compete," he said of Favre. "It's tough for them to walk away. Joe Montana went through the same thing.

"I think Brett still feels he's got enough boy in him, and competitive juice, to make a difference. Listen, who wouldn't want to hand off to Adrian Peterson in the backfield? He's going to love that."

After graduating from Harvard, Kind went on to earn a master's degree from the London School of Economics and a law degree from the University of Minnesota.

He worked as a lawyer and a La Crosse County assistant district attorney prior to his election to Congress.

His wife, Tawni, is a Cumberland native. He and Tawni have two sons, Johnny, 13, and Matthew, 11.

Asked what he is considering in deciding whether to run for governor, Kind said he enjoys his work as a congressman. Serving in the House of Representatives gives him a voice on national security and international issues, he said, as well as important domestic issues such as health care reform.

But, "being governor of a state, you really are in a position to help set the agenda and lay out a vision for where we need to go," he said. "You're one of one, as opposed to one of 435."

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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