Politicos waiting to see if Kevin Nicholson will jump into Wisconsin's governor race

Kevin Nicholson
Posted at 8:27 AM, Jan 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-17 12:13:46-05

Will Kevin Nicholson run for governor? Don’t be surprised if he says yes.

Now that the lingering reelection question about Republican Ron Johnson is settled and he's off and running for a third term in the U.S. Senate, politicos are waiting to see if Kevin Nicholson will jump into the governor's race.

Republicans are hearing an announcement could be days away, all signs suggest he will run.

Nicholson would only tell me an announcement is coming soon.

But all you have to do is look at what he told me last September, as he was waiting to decide to run for the senate or governor. At the that time, his No Better Friend conservative advocacy organization was about to launch a $1.5 million statewide TV blitz.

Benson: "Is it fair to say that Kevin Nicholson's name will be on the ballot in 2022?"

Nicholson: "Yes, it is."

Up until now, Nicholson had been keeping his options open until Johnson made a decision.

He sure sounded like a candidate pivoting to a governor's race in a tweet after Johnson decided to run: “After losing 11 of the last 12 statewide elections in Wisconsin, we also need a conservative candidate who can win a general election in 2022.”

A reference to Republicans losing a bunch of races in 2018, including a senate seat and governorship.

Nicholson would change the political landscape in a Republican primary to take on Governor Tony Evers.

Evers’ campaign said last week it raised $10 million in 2021 as he seeks a second term, with another $10.5 million in cash.

Former Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch has been running for months and raising money, $3.3 million according to her campaign. She's also picking up key party endorsements, like former Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner who backed Kleefisch last week saying, “She has been crucial to the conservative reforms in Wisconsin state government.”

But Nicholson, a Bronze Star Marine veteran is no stranger to primary battles. He lost the U.S. Senate Republican primary to Leah Vukmir in 2018 by six points or 27,000 votes, but won 57 out of 72 counties.

Nicholson's campaign benefited from conservative megadonor Dick Uihlein, who poured millions into the political newcomer's effort.

Vukmir's campaign won an early endorsement from the Republican Party of Wisconsin in the primary, but lost by 10 points to Democrat Tammy Baldwin that year.

Former President Donald Trump encouraged Sean Duffy to run for governor in 2022, but the former Republican Congressman from Wausau has decided not to run. Will Trump endorse someone else? He could have a huge impact in the Aug. 9 primary, less than seven months away.

That still leaves Eric Hovde out there as another potential candidate for governor. The Madison businessman ran for Senate in the 2012 primary, coming in second behind Tommy Thompson.

Political newcomer and small business owner Jonathan Wichmann is also running in the Republican primary.

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