By SCOTT BAUER
Associated Press Writer
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson still isn’t saying whether he’ll enter the U.S. Senate race to challenge incumbent Russ Feingold, and it may be a while before he makes up his mind.
Thompson, 68, said Thursday following a speech at a management conference in Madison that he is considering entering the race but he doesn’t know when he will decide.
“I’m going through a process,” Thompson said. “I’m looking at the possibilities and I’m looking at where I could serve and be the biggest help to grow Wisconsin.”
The filing deadline is July 13.
Thompson has been rumored as a possible candidate to join the field of two announced Republicans, Madison-area developer Terrence Wall and Watertown businessman Dave Westlake.
Republicans who want Thompson to get into the race see him as a more viable candidate against Feingold than Wall and Westlake. However, just the mere potential of Thompson entering the race may deter others who are considering a run and lead to big donors holding back writing checks for those campaigning now.
Wall, a newcomer to statewide politics, has stumbled early in the campaign with reports that he didn’t pay personal income tax in the state nine of the past 10 years.
Wall, thanks to a $275,000 loan to himself, had $350,000 cash on hand at the end of the year. That compares with $3.65 million for Feingold, who raised nearly $1 million in the last three months of the year. Westlake had just $2,500 cash on hand.
Part of the equation for Thompson to make his decision, he said, is whether he wants to step aside from private businesses he’s involved with. Thompson serves as president of Logistics Health Inc., a La Crosse-based health care company. He’s also a partner at the major Washington lobbying and legal firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and is associated with more than a dozen corporate boards.
Just last week it was announced that Thompson was going to serve as an adviser to the board of Peak Ridge Capital Group, a hedge fund. Thompson said that appointment was in the works for months and nothing about his intentions for running for Senate should be read into the appointment.
Going back into public service, after making money in the private sector, would be difficult, he said.
“Everybody knows I was broke when I left the government five years ago,” Thompson said. “I’ve made a few shekels, not as many as you guys think I’ve made, but it’s tough to go back, there’s no question about that. But the country’s in trouble right now and I’m looking at that.”
Thompson served as governor from 1986 until 2001, when he left to serve as President George W. Bush’s health and human services secretary. He held that post until 2005. Since then he has toyed with re-entering state politics and launched a brief run for the presidency but he dropped out in 2007 after finishing seventh in the Iowa straw poll.