Feingold gives first TV interview after campaign announcement

Economy blamed for previous election loss

In his first interview since announcing that he’ll run again for the U.S. Senate, Russ Feingold says he’s running because he believes that people want an independent voice to represent Wisconsin.

Speaking to News 8’s sister station, WISC on Friday at his home in Middleton before leaving for a day of meetings, Feingold talked about why he wanted to run again after losing the race in 2010.

“The favorite thing I’ve ever had to do in my life is serving the people of Wisconsin, so obviously it is something I care about,” Feingold said.

Feingold said he believes voters are frustrated with both the economy and the divisiveness in Washington.

“They want people to work on a bipartisan basis that are very honest and willing to be independent,” Feingold said. “I think people know that’s the kind of senator I was and the kind of senator I would be if I had a chance to run again and actually be elected.”

Asked what he learned from his five-point loss to Sen. Ron Johnson in 2010, Feingold blamed the economic environment.

“You have to understand that people get frustrated when the economy is not going well, and what happened that year is we had a huge wave election because the economy had gone in a disastrous direction,” Feingold said. “Of course, my view is that was a result of policies that I didn’t agree with, but the fact is that people are going to vote on the basis of whether after they work very hard, whether they can make ends meet and enjoy their families.”

Feingold, an outspoken critic of the amount and involvement of third-party money in elections says he would work as a senator to change campaign finance laws after the Citizens United decision.

Asked whether he would take or use third-party money or support in his campaign, he said he believes some parts of the system shouldn’t exist.

“I believe we shouldn’t have these super PACs,” Feingold said. “I think they’re a horrible system. It corrupts our system, and I would hope there wouldn’t be any of them.”

Feingold also attacked the so-called “fast-track” trade agreement that cleared the U.S. Senate on Thursday, saying it would not help the economy.

“The economy has definitely been improving, and things like the stock market are doing better,” Feingold said. “But the economy has to be good for working-class and middle-class families who work every day, send their kids to a school like is in front of my house, and they have to be able to enjoy their lives. That’s why you don’t pass a trade agreement that ships even more jobs overseas.”

Feingold said he’ll now begin to travel the state, with plans to go to all 72 counties before the end of 2015.

Sen. Ron Johnson will be at the state Republican Party convention in La Crosse on Friday.

He released a statement on Thursday welcoming Feingold to the race.

“Russ Feingold wants more Washington, a more expensive Washington, and a more powerful Washington. I want to empower people. This campaign will give the people of Wisconsin a real choice,” Johnson said.