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Vukmir, Nicholson Clash At Close Of First GOP Senate Primary Debate

Winner Of Aug. 14 Primary Will Face Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin

For the first hour of their first U.S. Senate debate, Republican candidates state Sen. Leah Vukmir and businessman Kevin Nicholson agreed on issue after issue.

It was only during closing statements that the two clashed Thursday night in Pewaukee and each went beyond the moderator’s attempts to end the debate.

Nicholson defended his conservative credentials while Vukmir said her record in the Legislature proves she can be trusted.

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Vukmir told the audience of Americans for Prosperity members that voters should elect a strong conservative to stand with President Donald Trump.

“I have a track record that you can trust,” Vukmir said, adding that, “We can’t take chances on the unknown. We have to elect a strong, proven consistent conservative.”

Nicholson, a former Democrat who hasn’t held elective office, responded by saying he is “clearly different,” and that’s what voters showed they wanted by electing Trump.

“I feel like I may be the unknown in that variable. I am, I’m clearly different, folks, clearly a different kind of candidate,” he said.

Nicholson went on to say that voters need to be willing to “break the glass” and do things differently.

“Sending insiders to do a job that outsiders need to go and take care of, we’re going to be sitting here and talking about the same problems in six years,” Nicholson continued.

Vukmir said her 15 years of experience in the Legislature and her being a close ally to Gov. Scott Walker shows she can be trusted, but more is known about Nicholson’s track record as a Democrat than a Republican. He’s a former Democrat who converted after being in the Marines.

Nicholson said his experience was forged on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The two did stick closely to their talking points.

The contest on Thursday hosted by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity featured mostly softball questions that allowed Vukmir and Nicholson to talk about their support for cutting taxes, reforming health care, and giving veterans the choice of using private hospitals instead of the VA.

In a statement, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin said:

“Leah Vukmir’s and Kevin Nicholson’s escalating personal attacks only add to the fact that they’re running to work for corporate special interests like the out-of-state billionaire Koch Brothers, and that they’ll do whatever it takes to protect Washington corruption.”

The winner of the Republican primary Aug. 14 will take on Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin. Baldwin is one of the top targets for Republicans in the 2018 election. The general election is in November.

Editor’s Note: This story was last updated at 10:06 p.m. Thursday, April 26, 2018.