, , ,

Wisconsin Republicans don’t take sides in contested primaries for attorney general, lieutenant governor, secretary of state

No candidates received the 60 percent votes needed to win endorsements in the primaries

Republican activists hold up signs encouraging no endorsement of a GOP candidate for governor
Republican activists hold up signs encouraging no endorsement of a GOP candidate for governor Saturday during the Wisconsin Republican Convention in Middleton. Shawn Johnson/WPR

The Wisconsin Republican Party won’t take sides in contested primaries for several statewide offices this year following “no endorsement” votes at the annual state convention.

While the governor’s race got the most attention Saturday, primary candidates for attorney general, lieutenant governor and secretary of state also failed to hit the threshold needed to earn the Republican Party’s official endorsement.

The state party’s rules require a candidate to receive the votes of 60 percent of delegates at the annual convention in order to earn an official endorsement.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This year, GOP activists successfully lobbied to add a “no endorsement” option to every ballot, and in all the contested primaries, that was enough to keep the leading vote-getter from breaking the 60 percent threshold.

A few came close.

In the GOP primary for attorney general, Fond du Lac District Attorney Eric Toney received about 54 percent of the vote compared to 27 percent for former state Rep. Adam Jarchow. Nineteen percent chose the “no endorsement” option in that primary.

“THANK YOU to our grassroots and supporters!” Toney said in a tweet after the vote. “You sent a resounding message that @wisgop knows we need a prosecutor, not a politician as our ‘top cop’ to lead @WisDOJ.”

Jarchow said after the convention that his campaign had made great progress.

“Our campaign is built for the long haul,” Jarchow tweeted. “Now is the time that our significant organizational and fundraising advantage will make a huge difference.”

In the race for secretary of state, Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, of Clinton, also came up just short of the threshold for an endorsement, winning about 54 percent of the vote compared to 24 percent for Jay Schroeder, a real estate investor who ran for the post in 2018, and 22 percent for “no endorsement.”

“Despite the fact the convention voted not to endorse any Secretary of State candidate, I will continue to talk to voters in every corner of this state, listen to their ideas and share my plan to fix the Secretary of State office, add value and deliver real results,” Loudenbeck said in a statement.

Seven Republicans vied for an endorsement in the race for lieutenant governor, an office which — like the secretary of state — has few official responsibilities in Wisconsin.

In the final round of balloting, state Sen. Patrick Testin, of Stevens Point, received about 46 percent of the vote, followed by “no endorsement” at 45 percent and Racine businessman Will Martin at about 9 percent. Other candidates, including Appleton state Sen. Roger Roth, of Appleton, were eliminated in an earlier endorsement vote.

“I am incredibly humbled and so grateful to the grassroots of RPW,” Testin said in a written statement.

The vote totals for Toney and Loudenbeck were nearly identical to the final tally for former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch in the GOP primary for governor. Kleefisch received about 55 percent of the vote, with about 43 percent choosing “no endorsement.”

While Kleefisch, Toney and Loudenbeck have run independent campaigns for their endorsements, they share some similarities.

Kleefisch has emphasized her record as part of former Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s administration while Toney is endorsed by former Republican Party Chair Brad Courtney, an ally of Walker’s. Loudenbeck has served as a member of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee since 2015, where she helped pass and sometimes rewrite Walker’s budgets.

Saturday’s results mean no candidate will be able to claim the party’s endorsement — or tap its financial resources — ahead of the Aug. 9 partisan primary.

The party did endorse Orlando Owens in the race for treasurer. Owens was the only Republican who sought the endorsement but Republican John Lieber told delegates he’s also running.

And, not surprisingly, delegates officially endorsed U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson in his bid for a third term.