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Businessman Tim Sullivan Mulling Wisconsin Senate Bid

Wisconsin businessman Tim Sullivan is leaving his options open for a Senate run, including which party banner he’d run under.

After businessman Ron Johnson (R) burst onto the political scene last year to knock off then-Sen. Russ Feingold (D), party strategists on both sides of the aisle are keeping one eye open for a candidate with a similar background this cycle. Sen. Herb Kohl’s (D) retirement has created a competitive open-seat race in the Badger State.

“I am flattered by the unsolicited support I have received over the past few days by those suggesting I consider running for the Senate seat being vacated by Senator Kohl,” Sullivan said in a statement in response to a Roll Call inquiry. “At this point, I am committed to our shareholders and employees in closing the sale of Bucyrus International.”

Bucyrus is a mining equipment manufacturer in south Milwaukee that is being purchased by Caterpillar.

“When this deal is consummated in the near future; I will weigh all my options,” Sullivan added. “I have a deep commitment to this community, and I look forward to being involved in the future challenges and opportunities at the local, state, and national level.”

The deal should be completed later this year, but it remains a mystery which party nomination he might seek. Sullivan has been with Bucyrus since 1976 and president and CEO since 2004. According to local sources, he stands to make a considerable amount of money through the business deal.

Some local media reports have pegged Sullivan as a conservative, and other sources in Wisconsin believe he’d run as a Republican. But he has also worked comfortably with Democratic officials in the state, including former Gov. Jim Doyle (D) and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D). Voters do not register by party in Wisconsin so there are no voter registration rolls to give a clue about Sullivan’s party affiliation.

If he chooses to run, Sullivan would likely have a competitive primary on either side of the aisle. Plus, he lacks the partisan roots among the activists who will likely decide the nomination. That’s not generally a position of strength, but as the past couple of years have shown, there is considerable benefit to being the outsider in a race, particularly one with a record of creating jobs in the state.