Russ Feingold on Friday told supporters that he would not run for the U.S. Senate in 2012, increasing the likelihood that Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin will jump into the race.

“While I may seek elective office again someday, I have decided not to run for public office during 2012,” Feingold wrote in an email to supporters.

Feingold, who served in the U.S. Senate for 7 years, also brushed aside appeals for him to consider a run to replace Republican Governor Scott Walker.

“I am also well aware that I have a very strong standing in the polls should I choose to run again for the U.S. Senate or in a recall election for governor,” he wrote. “After twenty-eight continuous years as an elected official, however, I have found the past eight months to be an opportunity to look at things from a different perspective.”

The decision increases the likelihood that Baldwin will enter the race to succeed Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl, who announced in May he would not seek a fifth term in 2012.

Baldwin is among the four openly gay lawmakers serving in the House. Also gay are David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Jared Polis of Colorado.

The 49-year-old Baldwin was first elected to represent the people of Wisconsin's 2nd congressional district in 1999. For 8 years prior she served in the Wisconsin Assembly.

Gay blog notes that a recent Public Policy Polling survey found Baldwin with a strong showing behind Feingold.

If elected, Baldwin would become the nation's first openly gay senator.