Tommy Thompson formally announces U.S. Senate candidacy

Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson will officially launch his campaign for Wisconsin's U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democratic Senator Herb Kohl> Thursday night. Thompson officially filed the required paperwork with the Federal Election Commission back in October, and says he's "ready for a fight."

When Senator Herb Kohl announced his retirement, it took a safe seat from the Democrats, and had Republicans salivating at the opportunity to run. Thompson has been hinting for months, and now he joins an already crowded field of Republican candidates.

Thompson is a Republican, and was Wisconsin's Governor from 1987 through 2001. He also served as Secretary of Human Services under George W. Bush. Many have been wondering when he will make his formal announcement that he will run for the seat after Kohl retires at the end of this term, and that announcement occurred Thursday night at Weldall Manufacturing in Waukesha. Some questioned this choice of venue because Thompson has previously spoken out against the 2010 stimulus, but government records show Weldall took $300,000 in stimulus money. Thompson says he was unaware, but doesn't care, saying "if the money is there, I would rather it go to a successful Wisconsin business, than go someplace else. This is one area where the stimulus money actually worked, and they've created 100 jobs," Thompson said Thursday.

Thompson joins fellow Republicans Former U.S. Representative Mark Neumann, State Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, and conservative State Senator Frank Lasee in the race, and on the Democratic side, U.S. Representative Tammy Baldwin is the only declared candidate.

Fitzgerald says he can bring the same reforms he helped pass in Wisconsin to Washington. "Politics is all about timing, and I think I'm the right candidate for the right time. I'm the only candidate who has been able to lead not only myself, but 58 other members to the right decision that we have to make, tough choices here in Wisconsin to move the state forward," Fitzgerald said.

Neumann has positioned himself as the most conservative candidate in the race, and says he wants to shrink the size of government. "It's almost ridiculously simple. You can't spend more money than you have. When I took office, I wrote basically a business plan that showed us how to get from where we were, to a balanced budget. What we did once, we can do again," Neumann said. Neumann recently lost two high-profile races - in 2004 to Russ Feingold, and in 2010 to Scott Walker, but he says past races won't determine who wins this election, and says the candidate who has faced economic problems will likely win.

Democratic candidate Baldwin says she'll focus on jobs for the middle class, not tax breaks for businesses. "I am a fighter. I stand up against powerful interest. I believe that in the battle between the people and the powerful special interests, that the people will prevail," Baldwin said.

Now that Thompson has joined the race, observers say the primary election will be a battle for the soul of the Republican Party.

Democrats are already questioning Thompson's announcement for U.S. Senate. "He's made millions and millions of dollars from an untold number of companies. The reason we don't know is because he has not filed his official disclosure form if you're going to be a candidate for U.S. Senate," Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate said.

A spokesperson for Thompson's campaign says Democrats are just scared of Thompson as a candidate. Thursday, Thompson said "if people want to tear me down, it's their prerogative, but I say just get the hell out of the way, because I'm going to win."