APPLETON, Wis. (AP) — Herb Kohl, who has represented Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate since 1988, expressed gratitude to fellow Democrats Saturday, who in turn showered the senator with applause and chants after his farewell speech at the state party's annual convention.
Kohl, 77, announced last year that he would not be seeking a fifth six-year term.
Kohl told several hundred Democrats gathered at the convention that the next steps for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin should be focused on preserving the unifying grass-roots support that drove the recall election between Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Gov. Scott Walker.
The crowd stood and applauded as Barrett introduced Kohl.
"I want to make sure that we all recognize the incredible commitment he's made to this state, not just for the 24 years he's been an elected official, but for his entire adult life," Barrett said. "I want to give my thanks to him."
Kohl told Democrats he was thankful for the chance to serve in the Senate.
"As I look back on my time with you, I am forever grateful for the chance that you gave me, to be your senator," Kohl said. "It has been the greatest honor and responsibility of my lifetime, and I have loved every minute of it."
Kohl has endorsed U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin as his replacement. She will likely face the winner of the Aug. 14 GOP primary. Tommy Thompson, a former governor who was secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush; former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann; state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald; and millionaire hedge fund manager Eric Hovde are vying for the Republican nomination.
Before serving in the Senate, Kohl helped build his family-owned business, Kohl's grocery and department stores. He served as president from 1970 through the sale of the corporation in 1979. In 1985 he bought the Milwaukee Bucks.
Kohl serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Judiciary Committee, Banking Committee, and the Special Committee on Aging, of which he is chairman.
Kohl told Democrats he won't completely disappear from politics.
"I'm not going anywhere," he said. "I'll always be around to help you, and us and the great party that we represent as we serve the people of Wisconsin today, tomorrow and in the decades to come."
The crowd chanted, "Thank You. Thank You," as finished his speech.
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