Note: this first appeared in the RightWisconsin email update on July 18, 2019.
You may think it’s too early to talk about elections in 2022, but not for Wisconsin Republicans. They just received news that former Gov. Scott Walker will not be attempting a comeback in that election cycle, in either the race for governor or U.S. Senate. Instead, Walker is making a four-year commitment to running the Young America’s Foundation.
(Jim Swift, writing in The Bulwark, has some interesting advice for Walker.)
This does not mean Walker is necessarily done in politics, although the last person to lead the Young America’s Foundation held the job for forty years. Walker is still relatively young in political terms and the Foundation gives Walker a position of national prominence in the conservative movement. There will be more opportunities for Walker, including possibly running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) in 2024.
On the other hand, recent Wisconsin political history has shown how hard it is for Wisconsin politicians to make a comeback. Former Sen. Russ Feingold, former Gov. Tommy Thompson, former Congressman Mark Neumann all made recent attempts to resurrect their political careers – unsuccessfully. Perhaps Walker could make a comeback, given some time, but history is against him.
You may be asking why we’re talking about 2022 when 2020 is the next election cycle. The only statewide office up for election in 2020 is the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Justice Dan Kelly is running for re-election (and doing a great job raising money early).
After that, the office of governor and the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Ron Johnson will be up for grabs in the 2022 election cycle. Republicans are waiting on Johnson to decide if he’ll run for re-election, run for governor, or retire. Once Johnson firmly announces his intentions – he previously said he would not run for re-election – every other Republican with a desire for higher office will be able to plan accordingly.
Already, Kevin Nicholson is doing everything he can to keep his name circulating in Republican circles and would likely make another run for U.S. Senate. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI07), former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow, state Sen. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), and others could all be in a game of political musical chairs in 2022.
We’ll make one prediction this far in advance. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI05) will probably run for re-election in 2022, disappointing every Republican office holder waiting to succeed the congressman since 1979.