Wisconsin Senate Republicans

Leah Vukmir

Photo: Mark Hoffman

Wisconsin Republicans have endorsed U.S. Senate hopeful Leah Vukmir over rival Kevin Nicholson to run for the seat held by U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

But Vukmir still has to beat Nicholson in the party’s Aug. 14 primary to win a position on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

A former nurse and current state senator, Vukmir received the support of 72 percent of the delegates attending the party’s state convention at Milwaukee’s Wisconsin Center on May 12. She needed 60 percent to win.

Along with the endorsement comes immediate support from Republicans’ extensive field operations and the official backing of Scott Walker, along with increased access to his wealthy national base of funders and their dark money groups.

Nicholson, a businessman and former marine, said he’ll remain in the GOP primary race, ignoring a not-so-subtle request from U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson for him to step aside.

Despite Nicholson’s failure to secure the party’s endorsement, he should not be cash-strapped moving forward. He has the backing of Richard Uihlein, the Illinois billionaire founder of Uline, the nation’s largest distributor of shipping and industrial supplies.

Uihlein already has contributed more than $1 million to Nicholson’s primary campaign.

Apparently, Nicholson’s former affiliation with the Democratic Party turned off Republican delegates, who tend to be from the party’s right-wing flank. His parents have maxed out on their contributions to Baldwin.


‘Follow the money’

Vukmir already has been backed by the Koch brothers and other billionaire political donors who follow their lead. Their sites have been set on maintaining GOP control of Wisconsin for the last decade, providing the party’s candidates with massive amounts of cash.

Democrats, meanwhile, have charged that Walker and the state’s Republican majority have returned the favor by enacting hundreds of laws designed specifically to further enrich GOP backers — and overturning hundreds of laws that conflict with backers’ interests.

During the GOP convention, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andy Gronik  hired a truck to circle the Wisconsin Center. It carried a giant LED billboard with animated images linking Walker’s policies to special-interest contributions. 

The tagline was “Follow the money, it always leads to Walker.”


Despite cold temperatures and steady rain, Gronik parked himself in front of the center all day May 12, broadcasting video on his Facebook page of his interviews with people who’ve suffered under Walker’s austerity funding of programs for the poor and middle class. Those cuts vividly contrast with Walker’s hefty tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations.

Like Walker, who’s been something of a political mentor to her, Vukmir has been supported by wealthy special interests throughout her legislative career. Closer to her heart, however, are evangelical social issues, especially opposition to reproductive choice and LGBTQ rights. 

The latter positions will assist Vukmir in getting out core right-wing Republican voters in November at very little cost.


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