UNDATED (WSAU) Thirteen years after he last ran for public office, Tommy Thompson is kicking off his Republican campaign for the U-S Senate today. After 14 years as Wisconsin's governor and four more as the nation's health secretary, Thompson remains one of the state's best-known political figures. But critics from both parties say some of the luster has come off -- partially because of his previous support for national health care reform, and partially because the economy is not nearly as good as it was when he increased state spending in Wisconsin throughout the late '80's and '90's.
Thompson insists he's a conservative by today's standards -- and he has condemned the final version of the Obama health package which is now in the hands of the U-S Supreme Court.
Thompson is one at least three Republicans eyeing the Senate seat to be given up by Democrat Herb Kohl. Madison House Democrat Tammy Baldwin is the only candidate on her party's side. And Matt Canter of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee predicts the G-O-P race will be a quote, "bloody, divisive primary where most of the fire is focused on Thompson." The national conservative Club for Growth has endorsed former G-O-P Congressman Mark Neumann. Current state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald says his conservative credentials put him ahead of both Thompson and Neumann. He said he's most proud of his leadership in passing the state law that virtually ended most public union bargaining in Wisconsin.