U.S. Rep. Ron Kind

Dem U.S. Rep. Ron Kind announced today he won’t seek reelection in 2022, telling a La Crosse news conference, “The truth is, I’ve run out of gas.”

Kind has represented the western Wisconsin seat for more than 24 years and was already a top GOP target in 2022 after his narrow reelection last fall.

Appearing at a news conference in front of his former elementary school, the 58-year-old Dem said he will serve out the remainder of his term, ticking off a series of priorities. That includes beating COVID-19, rebuilding the economy, addressing climate change and protecting voting rights.

“I’m going to break the tape,” the former collegiate athlete said of his final months in office.

Kind beat Republican Derrick Van Orden by 2.7 percentage points last fall, his smallest margin of victory since winning the western Wisconsin seat in 1996. Van Orden earlier this year announced plans to run for the seat again, and Republicans have hammered Kind this year for owning a building in La Crosse that rented space to a massage parlor.

Van Orden, who has faced criticism for attending the Jan. 6 rally in Washington, D.C., that preceded the violent storming of the Capitol, outraised Kind in the second quarter of 2021. He pulled in $753,996 over the three-month period, while Kind raised $408,504.

The La Crosse Dem still had $1.4 million in the bank to end the period, more than twice what Van Orden had in the bank. In a statement, Van Orden thanked Kind for his service and said the announcement was “indicative of what I hear every day as I travel the 3rd District: Wisconsinites want a change.”

The western Wisconsin seat has been trending away from Dems in the last two presidential cycles. Former President Trump won the seat by 4.7 percentage points in 2020, an improvement over his 2016 performance. Still, the district could be dramatically revamped in the upcoming round of redistricting.

The National Republican Congressional Committee immediately knocked Kind and what his pending retirement means for Dem chances of holding the House in 2022.

“Ron Kind chose to retire rather than defend Democrats’ record of rising prices, rising crime, and skyrocketing illegal immigration. Kind’s retirement is the clearest sign yet that Democrats’ House majority is toast,” said NRCC spokesman Mike Berg.

During his news conference, Kind touted rankings that regularly pegged him as one of the most bipartisan members of Congress, calling himself a “dying breed.” He also thanked his family for their support.

“I just hope that I did it in a way that made you all proud throughout the years,” said Kind, who was a local prosecutor before winning the House seat in 1996.

Dems paid tribute to the longtime lawmaker with Gov. Tony Evers saying Kind’s voice will be “sorely missed” but “his legacy as a pragmatic and selfless leader will continue to move Wisconsin forward.”

Kind’s comment that he “ran out of gas” was reminiscent of fellow Dem Dave Obey’s May 2010 comment in announcing he wouldn’t seek reelection. At the time, the more than 40-year veteran of the House said, “I’m bone tired.”

At the time, Obey was one of three Wisconsin House members with more than three decades of experience in the delegation. GOP Rep. Tom Petri, of Fond du Lac, would later retire in 2015 after 36 years in Congress, while U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, retired earlier this year after 43 years of service.

With Kind’s departure, Dem U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, elected in 2004, is poised to become the dean of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation. U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeulah, is next behind Moore for years of service, elected to the House in 2014.

Speculation immediately turned to Dems who will take a look at running for the seat.

That includes state Sen. Brad Pfaff, a former aide to Kind and ex-DATCP secretary who won his La Crosse-area seat in 2020. Pfaff, D-Onalaska, isn’t up for re-election to the Legislature again until 2024.

Dems also mentioned Rebecca Cooke, of Eau Claire. She owns Red’s Mercantile, a home goods and accessories store geared toward women. The store also has a social entrepreneurship arm that awards grants to women in the Chippewa Valley who want to start their own business. Cooke also has experience working on political campaigns, including serving as finance director on California Dem U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz’s 2014 campaign.

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