State Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) announced he will not run for Congress in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District, blaming the late decision to retire by House Speaker Paul Ryan.

“Timing is everything in politics, and the extremely late Ryan announcement made a possible run for Congress nearly impossible given the head start some have and the obvious advantages Ryan will certainly provide to his hand-selected successor,” Barca told the Kenosha News.

Ryan announced his decision not to seek re-election on April 11.

Barca, the former Assembly minority leader who lost his position after supporting the Foxconn investment, was considered a possible candidate because he had served as a one-term congressman from 1993-95. Despite having more than a month so far to decide whether to run, Barca did not declare his candidacy, raising speculation from some political observers that he was unable to secure commitments for the fundraising necessary to take on Randy Bryce, nicknamed the Iron Stache by supporters, in the Democratic primary. As of the last reporting period, Bryce had $2.3 million in cash on hand for the race.

Barca himself acknowledged the difficulty of the campaign in his statement to the Kenosha News.

“Now that I have taken the time to carefully assess this option, it would take a Herculean effort to piece together a winning campaign and would be further complicated given the prior endorsements by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and a number of key allied groups,” he said. “These factors also could have led to divisiveness that might have undercut the clear, shared goal of our efforts to bring people together for the November election to bring change to both Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin.”

Madison-area Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI02), a Bryce backer, had also urged Barca to stay out the race.

With Barca out of the running, the two Democratic candidates are Bryce and Cathy Myers, a teacher and a school board member in Janesville. Since Ryan’s announcement, Democrats have had second thoughts about supporting Bryce, especially over his child support issues, but apparently not enough to draw Barca into the race.

On the Republican side, Bryan Steil, a member of the Board of Regents and a former staff member for Ryan, is the likely nominee.

Also running on the Republica side: Paul Nehlen, a racist who has been disavowed by the party; Nick Polce, a small businessman who moved here from the East Coast to take on Ryan; Spencer Zimmerman, a candidate who runs in multiple elections; and Kenosha County Supervisor Jeff Wamboldt who ran for President of the United States with the self-created “We the People” party.

The primary election for both parties is August 14, with the general election in November.


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