Both Kevin Nicholson and state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield) announced new endorsements on Thursday, with Nicholson continuing his pattern of mostly out-of-state endorsements and Vukmir announcing more supporters in Wisconsin.
Nicholson announced Thursday he had been endorsed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
“I’m honored to have the support of a conservative leader like Senator Cruz,” said Kevin Nicholson in the press release. “As we turn the page on a New Year, Wisconsin needs to turn the page on a new Senator as well. Tammy Baldwin’s dangerous support for higher taxes, Iran’s nuclear program, and her tragic neglect of our veterans, proves that we need to make a change. I look forward to joining the conservative ranks of Senators like Ted Cruz to help get things done for the American people.”
Cruz won the Wisconsin primary during the 2016 presidential campaign as conservatives rallied to try to stop Donald Trump from winning the Republican nomination.
As the Associated Press’ Scott Bauer pointed out on Twitter, Nicholson may have had an easier time seeking Cruz’s endorsement given the Axiom Strategies connection.
Texas Sen. @tedcruz, who won the Wisconsin presidential primary in 2016, endorses @KevinMNicholson in Senate race over @LeahVukmir. Cruz says Nicholson has “an impressive record of success and leadership.” Cruz’s former chief of staff is now working as an adviser for Nicholson
— Scott Bauer (@sbauerAP) January 3, 2018
The campaign’s press release notes that by endorsing Nicholson, Cruz joins “Club for Growth, Ambassador John Bolton, Freedom Works, Great America PAC, and Madison Project among others.” Great America PAC is the PAC supported by controversial former White House aide Steve Bannon, who would be among the “others” endorsing Nicholson.
After excerpts from a forthcoming book about the Trump Administration in which Bannon was extensively quoted was released, Bannon was sharply criticized by Trump and Bannon’s financial backers may be withdrawing support for his efforts to influence Republican primaries. However, despite calls from Nicholson’s GOP primary opponent Vukmir to repudiate the Bannon endorsement, Nicholson has so far refused to do so.
Nicholson was also criticized after another endorser, the national Club for Growth, criticized Vukmir for voting for the 2011 and 2015 state budgets under Governor Scott Walker. Conservative talk show host Jay Weber of WISN-AM accused the former marine Nicholson of “Semper hide” for not saying whether he agreed with Club for Growth’s criticisms of Walker’s budgets.
Meanwhile, Vukmir announced another 100 endorsements from Wisconsin conservatives. “Leah Topples 200+ Grassroots Endorsements,” the press release headline read. It’s unlikely Vukmir caused the endorsers to fall down.
Among the interesting endorsements, embattled Marquette University Professor John McAdams, state Rep. Travis Tranel (R-Cuba City), and former state representative and current Mayor Dean Kaufert of Neenah, WI. Frequent RightWisconsin contributor and school choice advocate George Mitchell has also endorsed Vukmir.
The endorsements follow the signing of a “unity pledge” with the candidates promising to endorse the party’s eventual winner of the August primary. While announcing the “unity pledge,” Sen. Ron Johnson cautioned against the influence of outside groups on Wisconsin’s Senate primary election.
“We’ve all witnessed what happens when Washington, D.C.-based ‘political experts’ of all kinds get involved in U.S. Senate races,” Johnson said. “Here in Wisconsin, the grassroots have a track record of nominating candidates who reflect our values – not Washington’s – and we can do it again to defeat Tammy Baldwin this fall.”