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WI GOP Primary Joins Growing List of Those Roiled by Intraparty War

The past week has seen the Wisconsin Republican Senate primary turn more divisive and expensive. State Senator Leah Vukmir challenged Kevin Nicholson to run for another office, questioning his conservative bonafides, as Nicholson’s out-of-state millionaire backers rushed to his defense. Meanwhile, Nicholson “won the Steve Bannon primary,” guaranteeing him another influx of out-of-state cash and the use of Breitbart to launch attacks on Vukmir. But Wisconsin’s conservative talk radio grassroots remain skeptical of Bannon and other out-of-state groups that are going all in for Nicholson, who lacks any major in-state backers.

From David Bergstein, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Spokesman: “We already knew the Wisconsin Republican Senate primary was shaping up to be a divisive contest, but the developments over the last week all but guarantee that Vukmir and Nicholson will be engaged in an expensive and bitter battle. No matter which candidate emerges from this intraparty brawl – whether it’s Vukmir and her conservative allies or Nicholson and his out-of-state millionaire puppeteers – voters will see how far both of them are willing to go to appease their backers at the expense of Wisconsinites.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin Senate race: Leah Vukmir suggests GOP rival Kevin Nicholson run for another office
By Bill Glauber
October 12, 2017 

Key Points:

  • Well, that didn’t take long. Less than two months after entering the race for U.S. Senate, Leah Vukmir suggested this week that Republican rival Kevin Nicholson run for another office and gain experience before making a bid for high office.”
  • “Vukmir, 59, a state senator from Brookfield, is campaigning on her experience in helping craft Wisconsin’s conservative agenda over the past decade. Nicholson — a Delafield businessman, Marine veteran and former Democrat — is billing himself as a political outsider.”
  • “On Monday, Vukmir offered her most pointed criticisms of her opponent so far when an audience member asked her if she knew much about Nicholson… ‘But, other than that, I will say I think what people are looking for is somebody with a proven, consistent track record,’ she said. ‘You know my track record as a conservative. You’ll have to ask him what his is because I don’t know what his record is other than what he tells us what it is.’
  • She also dismissed one of Nicholson’s common themes that he is following the path of another former Democrat turned Republican, Ronald Reagan.”
  • “Solutions for Wisconsin, a super PAC supporting Nicholson, also weighed in against Vukmir, characterizing her as a career politician. That charge was also leveled against Vukmir by David McIntosh, president for Club for Growth, which has endorsed Nicholson.”

Read the full article here. 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin GOP Senate contender Kevin Nicholson wins endorsement from super PAC tied to Steve Bannon
By Bill Glauber
October 16, 2017 

Key Points:

  • “The Steve Bannon primary in Wisconsin is over and Kevin Nicholson has won.”
  • “But whether Bannon’s backing of Nicholson sways Republicans in Wisconsin over the next year is uncertain as the party braces for what could be a bitter and expensive Senate primary battle… The endorsement of Great America PAC doesn’t come without risks for Nicholson.”
  • The move by the super PAC didn’t meet with much acclaim on conservative talk radio, a powerful influence in the Milwaukee area. Jeff Wagner of WTMJ radio told his listeners: “If Kevin Nicholson thinks that in Wisconsin the Steve Bannon endorsement is going to be what puts him over the top, I think that he is going to be sadly, sadly mistaken.”

Read the full article here.

Associated Press: Bannon injects himself into Wisconsin US Senate race
By Scott Bauer
October 17, 2017 

Key Points:

  • Republican Kevin Nicholson won the backing of former presidential strategist Steve Bannon in Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race, a surprise move that sent shockwaves Tuesday through the GOP primary nearly a year before the election.”
  • “Bannon’s interjection into the race comes amid his declared ‘war on the Republican establishment’ in order to enact President Donald Trump’s agenda. One of his key goals is removing Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.”
  • “Nicholson earlier this summer told Politico that ‘I have no issues voting for Mitch McConnell.’ Nicholson’s spokesman, Michael Antonopoulos, said Tuesday those comments came before the Senate failed to repeal and replace the federal health care law and he no longer feels that way. ‘Kevin has made it clear he’s prepared to support new leadership because of the Senate’s failure to pass a conservative agenda,’ Antonopoulos said.”
  • “The endorsement by a political action committee backed by Bannon comes after both Nicholson and Vukmir met separately in private with Bannon. Vukmir told The Associated Press that whether she supports McConnell never came up in her meeting. McConnell is blocking Trump’s agenda ‘in some regards,’ but Vukmir would not say whether she supported ousting him.”
  • Bannon’s backing of Nicholson didn’t win over a pair of influential conservative talk radio hosts in Wisconsin. Jerry Bader and Jeff Wagner both said on their shows broadcast around the state Tuesday that the endorsement will not resonate in Wisconsin.”
  • “The Great America PAC that’s backed by Bannon has also received donations from Richard Uihlein, co-founder of the Wisconsin-based Uline Corp. Uihlein, who lives in Illinois, has also given $3.5 million this year to Solutions for Wisconsin, another super PAC supporting Nicholson.”

Read the full article here. 

McClatchy: Pro-Trump group endorses in key Senate primaries
By Katie Glueck
October 16, 2017 

Key Points:

  • “A prominent pro-Donald Trump super PAC with ties to ex-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is rolling out its official endorsements… Great America PAC will announce that in Wisconsin, it is supporting Kevin Nicholson, a Marine veteran running in a hotly contested primary to challenge Sen. Tammy Baldwin.”
  • “Both Nicholson and his rival, state Sen. Leah Vukmir, have also spoken with Bannon, the current head of the hard-right outlet Breitbart who is heavily involved in boosting insurgent-minded candidates — especially Senate candidates — across the map.”
  • “According to a Bannon source with direct knowledge of Nicholson’s conversation with Bannon, the Wisconsin candidate indicated that he would not support Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as leader. Asked for confirmation, Nicholson campaign spokesman Michael Antonopoulos did not dispute that account.”

Read the full article here.

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