Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), a senior Democrat in one of the most competitive swing seats, will not seek reelection — a gutting blow to House Democrats in their uphill battle to hang onto their majority next November.
He is expected to announce his retirement Tuesday, according to multiple sources familiar with his plans.
Kind, who has spent nearly 25 years in the House, faced a closer-than-expected race in his sprawling rural Wisconsin seat last fall. He beat his GOP challenger Derrick Van Orden by less than 3 percentage points in 2020, after winning by nearly 20 points the previous cycle.
Democrats close to Kind said he acknowledged his reelection would be tougher this year, with Van Orden, a retired Navy SEAL, seeking a rematch. The GOP candidate raised a whopping $750,000 last quarter, outpacing the incumbent. Still, Democratic lawmakers and strategists had expected Kind — who serves on the coveted Ways and Means panel — to run again.
The first word of Kind’s retirement shocked Democrats, his decision representing a disappointing turn for many who believed they had largely dodged a pre-midterm exodus.
Kind’s now-open seat joins a daunting list of other races Democrats will have to worry about as they head into the 2022 cycle on defense against an emboldened GOP, a potentially perilous redistricting and years of history pointing to the party in power usually losing in the midterms.
Kind is the latest swing-district Democrat not to seek reelection, including Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.), Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), who announced his Senate bid last week.
Kind’s district, which spans southwestern Wisconsin, is one of only a handful of seats nationwide where Trump’s support increased between 2016 and 2020. His seat was not expected to change significantly in redistricting, given that the state is not gaining or losing a district, and there is split partisan control of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion.
The next steps for Kind, who is 58, aren’t clear. The Wisconsin Democrat did not rule out a bid for Senate earlier this year, and some Democrats have privately speculated that he could seek a statewide bid, though the primary is already crowded.
Kind is a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee and was a longtime leader for the moderate New Democrats. He fashioned a reputation as a mild-mannered independent who wasn’t afraid to buck Speaker Nancy Pelosi and even opposed her in leadership races.
Although close to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Kind wasn’t shy in saying he thought the Democratic Caucus needed new leadership after being led by the same team — Pelosi, Hoyer and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) — for more than a decade.
Despite his longtime opposition to Pelosi, Kind did vote for her for speaker earlier this year in a razor-thin victory for what may be the California Democrat’s last leadership race.
Earlier this summer Kind sounded on the fence about retirement, saying he still enjoyed “the work” but, “It’s just gotten nasty and so polarized.”
“When two-thirds of your colleagues across the aisle, hours after the insurrection, come in and vote to overturn the election result. What’s going on?” he added.
James Arkin contributed to this report.