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Republican State Sen. Vukmir Running For US Senate

Conservative Lawmaker To Challenge Democrat Baldwin, Sets Up GOP Primary

Leah Vukmir
WisPolitics.com (CC-BY-SA)

State Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, has officially announced she’s running for U.S. Senate, calling herself a consistent conservative with the best chance of defeating Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin.

Vukmir’s entry into the race comes as no surprise, but it guarantees there will be a Republican primary. Former Marine Kevin Nicholson has already announced he’s running.

Vukmir was first elected to the state Assembly in 2002 and to the state Senate in 2010. She’s made a name for herself as an outspoken advocate for the private school voucher program among other conservative causes.

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“I am a clear, consistent conservative with a proven track record,” Vukmir said in a phone interview Thursday.

Vukmir is also a longtime backer of Gov. Scott Walker, whom she counts as a friend.

“The relationship started when Scott Walker knocked on my door as a very, very young man, running for the state Assembly many, many years ago,” Vukmir said.

Before Vukmir was elected, she was a nurse practitioner in Milwaukee. She said she still teaches at a home health care agency today.

“My background in health care is vitally important right now,” Vukmir said. “I want to be that voice that goes out to Washington and makes sure that we have the votes that are necessary to make sure we repeal and replace Obamacare.”

Nicholson spokesman Michael Antonpolous issued a statement after Vukmir’s announcement, referring to her only as the “new entrant to U.S. Senate race.”

“Kevin Nicholson fought in two wars to protect the freedoms of all Americans, and has said repeatedly that he respects the right of any American to use that freedom to run for office,” Antonpolous said. “Wisconsin Republicans know it will take a conservative outsider like Kevin Nicholson to take back Washington from career politicians like Senator Baldwin, and to put an end to her disastrous record.”

Nicholson is backed by Richard Uihlein, an Illinois businessman and GOP heavyweight who has already given $3.5 million to a pro-Nicholson super PAC he created. Uihlein said he hoped to avoid a repeat of the divisive 2012 Republican primary that preceded Baldwin’s general election victory.

Vukmir has the backing of Beloit billionaire Diane Hendricks.

“I’m incredibly honored to have Diane’s support,” Vukmir said. “She’s an amazing woman. She was very involved and instrumental in the Trump victory here in Wisconsin.”

Asked what differentiates her from Nicholson, Vukmir referred to her record.

“I don’t know what Kevin’s record is other than what he tells us,” she said.

The State Democratic Party issued a statement attacking Vukmir as a “Tea Party, billionaire-backed, Koch brothers disciple.”

“For over a decade, Leah Vukmir has been in Madison putting her extreme agenda ahead of the needs of Wisconsin families,” said Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair Martha Laning. “Billionaires back her because she’s served as a national leader of a billionaire’s special interest group, introducing their legislation in Wisconsin and hurting Wisconsin families”

Vukmir has been an active member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a free market advocacy group that pairs corporations with legislators to draft model bills.

Vukmir may not be the last Republican to enter the Senate race. Madison businessman Eric Hovde is also considering running.

Other Republicans have ruled it out, including U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy and Brookfield State Rep. Dale Kooyenga.

Vukmir’s campaign released an announcement video Thursday:

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