Brandon Moody, the spokesman for Delafield businessman Kevin Nicholson’s campaign for U.S. Senate, blamed the “Republican establishment” for Sauk County Judge Michael Screnock’s loss in the race for Wisconsin Supreme Court in a statement Tuesday.
“The Republican establishment just lost a very winnable Supreme Court race – and now they want us all to pretend that everything’s fine and we don’t need to do something dramatically different,” Moody said.
Screnock lost the Supreme Court election on April 3 to Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Rebecca Dallet 56 percent to 44 percent. While the race was officially nonpartisan, Screnock’s campaign was financially supported by the Republican Party of Wisconsin (RPW). Screnock’s campaign also used the same political consultants, The Champion Group LLC, as state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield).
Vukmir and Nicholson are competing for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in the August primary election. The winner will take on Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin, the incumbent.
“It’s ridiculous. No matter how hard the political establishment tries, Kevin isn’t going to play by their rules,” Moody said. “He didn’t ask their permission to run, and that offends them. Frankly, Kevin is going to be the nominee because voters want an outsider who refuses to bow down to the political class whether it’s in Madison or DC.”
Moody’s statement was in response to a demand by Vukmir for an apology to delegates attending the May 11-13 state Republican Party convention in Milwaukee. Vukmir said a campaign memo from Nicholson’s “strategy team” to his supporters attacked the delegates for being party “insiders” and “establishment.”
“The grassroots folks who attend Wisconsin’s Republican convention are far from the elite insiders in Washington supporting Nicholson’s candidacy,” Vukmir said in a statement on Tuesday. “These are the volunteers who believe that the conservative policies passed under Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Leah Vukmir are working. Kevin is wrong if he thinks treating dedicated volunteers like garbage is the ticket to winning the Republican primary.”
Nicholson is currently leading in the polls and is likely leading in fundraising. However, if one of the candidates can get the support of 60 percent or more of the delegates at the GOP state convention, the candidate will win the party’s endorsement and he or she will have access to party resources and staff.
In the memo from Nicholson’s “strategy team,” the campaign seemed to be conceding the likelihood of Vukmir winning the Republican Party’s endorsement by setting high expectations for the Vukmir’s support:
State Senator Vukmir seems to realize that her only play is to rely on the support of the party establishment. This has manifested in her campaign’s central focus on the upcoming state convention – even at the great expense of fundraising or building a campaign capable of defeating Baldwin. Considering State Senator Vukmir’s deep insider status and support within the party apparatus, anything less than 85%-plus support from the delegates at the convention would be an astonishing underperformance on her part. (Emphasis in the original.)
In his statement on Tuesday, Moody did not back down from the Nicholson campaign’s assessment of the delegates attending the Republican Party state convention:
Our campaign is focused on the people who matter most – voters – and Kevin spends all day talking to them. That’s why over 8,000 Wisconsinites have invested in Kevin’s campaign in a quarter where he has raised over $1 million and increased his polling lead to 18 points over State Senator Vukmir. But make no mistake, the political establishment in the Madison bubble is trying to rig the game for their pal state Senator Vukmir. And by doing so in such a blatant fashion, they are diminishing the effectiveness of the Republican Party overall. Republican activists should be offended, frankly, at the overt attempt to protect someone who can’t win in November.
The convention endorsement vote will likely take place on Saturday, May 12. As the chairman of the Grassroots Endorsement Process, Republican Senator Ron Johnson will preside over the vote. Johnson was the sponsor of a “unity pledge” signed by both Nicholson and Vukmir. The pledge commits both campaigns to obeying the rules of the convention and to endorsing the eventual party nominee.