MILWAUKEE (WKOW) -- Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl announced he will not run for re-election in 2012.
Seventy-six-year-old Kohl is serving his fourth term as Wisconsin's senior Senator. He was first elected to the Senate in 1988.
Kohl was born and raised in Milwaukee attending Washington H.S. with current baseball commissioner Bud Selig. Kohl is also the principal owner of the NBA franchise in Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Bucks.
"The greatest honor and the greatest responsibility of my life has been to serve as Wisconsin's United States Senator. But I have never believed this was my senate seat," Kohl told a Milwaukee news conference packed with his supporters."
"I hope several people will decide to run for the seat," Kohl told WKOW27 News reporter Tony Galli.
The announcement by Kohl is a blow to Democrats who will now have to defend another open seat against Republicans in a swing state. Kohl is the fifth Democratic senator to announce his retirement ahead of the 2012 election.
Kohl is also one of only two Democrats who hold statewide office in Wisconsin. Republicans are coming off a year in which they defeated Russ Feingold, reclaimed the governor's office and both houses of the Legislature and picked up two seats in Congress.
Kohl would have been a formidable candidate, given his personal wealth and past success. He won re-election in 2006 with 67 percent of the vote.
Kohl said he consulted with close associates on his decision.
"We've just evolved into a decision, on balance. Not clearly, not only, but on balance, the best thing to do."
Kohl cited his help in landing a Navy contract and several thousand jobs for Marinette Marine as one of his more memorable accomplishments; the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks as one of his most difficult times as a senator.
Kohl said he regrets the increasing partisanship in Wisconsin and Washington, and the more common, negative political campaigning.
"One side does it, the other side does it and pretty soon, people say, 'A pox on all you.' "
Kohl told WKOW27's Galli he wants to continue to be engaged in Wisconsin's public policy and work after he leaves the senate in January 2013.
"I feel good, my mind is great, my emotions are good, my health is good, so I'm a pretty lucky guy. I've a lot to be thankful for."
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