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WI GOP “Divided,” “Unsettled” As Outside Donors Gear Up for “High-Dollar” Primary

As the Wisconsin Senate primary continues to drive a wedge through the Republican party, outside donors are gearing up for a “primary [that] already has the makings of a high-dollar race,” as both declared candidates have failed to “close the deal.”

From David Bergstein, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Spokesman: “Leah Vukmir and Kevin Nicholson may not agree on much, but they have one thing in common: deep-pocketed donors. Vukmir’s conservative allies and Nicholson’s out-of-state millionaire backers are hoping big checks can overcome the divide in the party. As this primary drags on – and costs even more money – we’ll see how far Vukmir and Nicholson are willing to go for their donors at the expense of Wisconsin.”

Associated Press: Divided Wisconsin Republicans picking sides in Senate race
By Scott Bauer
October 2, 2017

Key Points:

  • Wisconsin Republicans are increasingly picking sides in the U.S. Senate primary fight pitting a former Marine and Democrat who casts himself as a political outsider against a longtime elected official with deep ties to Gov. Scott Walker.”
  • Both candidates are also scrambling to show allegiance to President Donald Trump… while [they] struggle — mostly in private — to win over wealthy donors and influential insiders 10 months before the primary. And the field may grow, with at least one more Republican still mulling a bid.”
  • “On Monday, a new super PAC headed by a former Walker campaign manager that includes other former Walker operatives launched in support of state Sen. Leah Vukmir. Her GOP Senate primary opponent, political newcomer Kevin Nicholson, has also gathered former Walker donors to his side.”
  • “Richard Uihlein, who founded shipping and packing materials company Uline Corp. and is a Republican mega-donor, gave Nicholson his much-sought after stamp of approval with a $3.5 million donation to a supportive political action committee. He also gave $1.5 million to the PAC for the national conservative group Club for Growth, which endorsed Nicholson in August before Vukmir entered the race.”
  • “Vukmir won the endorsement of Michael Grebe, the political godfather of both Walker and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who retired a year ago as head of the influential conservative Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. Grebe served as chairman of Walker’s gubernatorial campaign in 2010 and his failed 2016 presidential bid. Vukmir is also endorsed by Diane Hendricks, the billionaire owner of roofing supply company ABC Supply who gave $5 million in 2015 to a PAC supporting Walker’s presidential run and has been a heavy contributor to his three previous gubernatorial campaigns.”
  • The campaign at this point is a division between conservative factions of the Republican Party and its allied group and backers with money,” said Charles Franklin, a political science professor who is lead pollster for Marquette University.

Read the full article here.

National Journal: Baldwin Faces Unsettled Field of Potential Opponents
By Kimberly Railey
October 2, 2017 

Key Points:

  • Wisconsin Republican “strategists are keeping their eyes on at least one other possible competitor [in the Senate election]. Wealthy investor Eric Hovde, who finished second in the 2012 Senate primary after spending more than $5 million of his own money, is openly considering another campaign—a move that would likely inject significantly more money into a primary already expected to come with a steep price tag.”
  • “For now, state Sen. Leah Vukmir and management consultant Kevin Nicholson are the only candidates. Still, the potential for a late entrance by Hovde, Republicans said, underscores how unsettled the GOP field is.”
  • “‘The fact that he has a window, however big or small, speaks to some of the uncertainty of some of the other two candidates,’ said Wisconsin GOP strategist Brian Nemoir. ‘No one’s closed the deal yet.’”
  • The primary already has the makings of a high-dollar race. Nicholson and Vukmir attracted two prominent donors in the state: Richard Uihlein started a super PAC for Nicholson, while Diane Hendricks is serving as the Vukmir campaign’s finance cochair. Meanwhile, a super PAC backing Vukmir that launched Monday is run by Stephan Thompson, a former campaign manager for Gov. Scott Walker.”

Read the full article here. 

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