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Democrat Russ Feingold won’t say who he voted for in Wisconsin’s recent presidential primary.

Feingold, D-Middleton, speaking as a U.S. senator in 2008, disclosed that he voted for then-Sen. Barack Obama in that year’s primary.

But now Feingold — running to reclaim the Senate seat he once held from Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who beat him in 2010 — won’t say if he voted for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

“I’m not saying, and I didn’t even tell my wife,” Feingold told reporters Thursday in a press conference in Madison. “It does no good, since my goal is to help unify the supporters on both sides.

“I don’t see anything positive about talking about what happened with my secret ballot.”

Johnson, R-Oshkosh, also has declined to publicly say which presidential candidate he supports.

Sanders, I-Vt., carried Wisconsin solidly in its April 5 primary. But Clinton now is on the verge of locking up the Democratic nomination after recent wins in large northeastern states such as New York and Pennsylvania.

Asked if Clinton is now the presumptive nominee, Feingold declined to say. But Feingold likened the dynamics of the race now to the late stages of the 2008 primary, which led to Clinton conceding the Democratic nomination to Obama.

“When it was clear that the handwriting was on the wall, she did the right thing,” Feingold said. “Bernie Sanders, if he ends up not winning, is going to do the same.

“He will do the right thing when the time is right. There is no big hurry.”

Feingold and his former Senate colleague, Sanders, have much in common. Both are progressives, and were so even at times when progressives lacked the influence within the Democratic Party that they have now. Both emphasize curbing the influence of money in politics and have sharply criticized global trade deals.

The political action committee Feingold founded, Progressives United, contributed to Sanders’ campaign in January 2015, before he launched his presidential bid.

Feingold credited Sanders on Thursday for raising issues “that frankly, I’ve been raising for decades — that needed to be raised — about the power of big money in politics and the dominance of Wall Street.”

Feingold’s relationship with Clinton has been more complicated. He endorsed her Democratic rival, Obama, in 2008. And Feingold reportedly clashed behind closed doors with Clinton in 2002 over the landmark campaign finance law on which Feingold collaborated with Republican Sen. John McCain.


Mark Sommerhauser covers state government and politics for the Wisconsin State Journal.