MILWAUKEE — Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson has decided to not run for an unprecedented fifth term in office, he announced Monday.
Eighty-year-old Thompson is Wisconsin's longest serving governor, from 1987 to 2001. But he had been thinking about making another run for the job after leaving his post as President of the University of Wisconsin System.
"I would have run," Thompson told TMJ4's Charles Benson after announcing his decision not to run for governor, but his family vetoed the idea of jumping into the race.
"This is a very difficult conclusion. After a full life of service and leading and growing businesses, I know I have the vision, drive and vitality to serve another term as governor," Thompson said in a statement.
Thompson says Wisconsin is "badly divided" and his motive for considering a grueling run was to find common ground, "Let's argue about ideas, not personalities."
The decision comes after meeting with former President Donald Trump in March in Mar-a-Lago, TMJ4 first reported. Thompson says Trump "encouraged" him to run during the meeting.
Thompson said in a statement Monday:
"After much thought and difficult deliberation, I can share with you that I have decided against another race for governor. This is a very difficult conclusion. After a full life of service and leading and growing businesses, I know I have the vision, drive and vitality to serve another term as governor. Wisconsin needs strong leadership to bridge political divides, care for our most vulnerable, set our economy on a path to succeed in the 21st-century, and again make us the shining star of the nation. I would have brought those qualities and commitment as governor."
Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, Kevin Nicholson and State Rep. Timothy Ramthun are running in the Republican primary. Gov. Tony Evers is running for reelection.
"They're all good people," Thompson said of the Republican candidates running to take on Gov.Evers.
Thompson was elected four times, the last two with 67% and 60% of the vote, which is unheard of in today's political landscape.
He ran for the U.S. Senate in 2012 and struggled to win a competitive Republican primary. but ended up losing to Democrat Tammy Baldwin.
What's next for Thompson?
"I am open and will continue to investigate how I may otherwise serve," he said. "I remain determined to participate in efforts to address the problems that face us all."
The indefatigable Thompson tells TMJ4 he's ruled out one option for now.
"I'm not going to retire."