Tommy Thompson, the former four-term Wisconsin governor and Bush-era Health and Human Services Secretary, has now taken significant steps toward running for the open Senate seat in his state, where Democrat Herb Kohl is retiring.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Thompson has announced two co-chairs for his nascent campaign: Former top political aide Jim Klauser, and current state Attorney General JB. Van Hollen.
“I’m honored to have the support and commitment of Jim and J.B.,” Thompson said in a statement. “We need to get America working again. We can do better, and it begins with getting government out the way of creating the jobs that make our families and communities stronger.”
Following Kohl’s retirement announcement in May, Thompson said that he would wait until after the very high-profile state Senate recalls, which concluded this past Tuesday, to make a decision about whether he would run for the U.S. Senate.
Thompson has had a long and successful career in Wisconsin politics, but has not been on a ballot since 1998. He was first elected to the state Assembly in 1966, eventually becoming the Republican minority leader. He was elected governor in 1986, then re-elected in 1990, 1994 and 1998, before joining President George W. Bush’s cabinet in 2001. He left the cabinet after the 2004 election, and briefly sought the Republican nomination for president in 2007, only to withdraw after a poor showing in the Ames Straw Poll.
Thompson was long courted by the GOP to run for Senate in various cycles, but never made the jump — he came very close in 2010, but ultimately backed away.
Also, Thompson has been strongly opposed by the right-wing Club For Growth, which has released poll data suggesting that the relatively moderate Thompson could be vulnerable to a primary challenge from the right — and have hinted that they could support such a challenger.