Leah Vukmir Wins GOP Vote For Wisconsin U.S. Senate, Will Challenge Sen. Baldwin

Aug 14, 2018

Republican Leah Vukmir will challenge Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin in November’s general election, as Vukmir won Tuesday’s partisan primary for Wisconsin U.S. Senate.

Leading up to primary election day, the race between Vukmir and her major contender Kevin Nicholson was close. Both she and Nicholson ran as strong supporters of President Donald Trump.

Vukmir won the endorsement of the Wisconsin Republican Party and the backing of most prominent GOP officeholders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan. She ran as the proven conservative in the race, pointing to her long voting record in support of Republican priorities. Vukmir is a nurse and current Wisconsin State Senator, serving as the assistant majority leader. 

Supporters of Republican Wisconsin U.S. Senate candidate Leah Vukmir watch election returns at Vukmir's gathering in Pewaukee.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

Nicholson failed to overcome his past as a Democrat. He also lost despite millions more being spent on his behalf by outside groups.

It was a contentious race, but both Vukmir and Nicholson are calling for party unity going forward. At her election party, Vukmir started by thanking people, including her grassroots supporters and her legislative colleagues.

She said of those legislative colleagues, “Your steadfast support, your endorsements, really helped me along the way. Many people came up to me and said, ‘I’m going to be voting for you because my representative is voting for you.’ And I thank you all for standing beside me.”

The race between Vukmir and Nicholson was marked by bitter fights. But Vukmir said it's time to settle differences. “Here’s my challenge to all of you. It’s going to take all of us. We need to unify starting right now," she declared.

Vukmir said she'll challenge Democratic incumbent U.S. Sent. Baldwin on subjects such as President Trump’s Supreme Court pick, health care, and veterans’ issues.

Nicholson, a Marine combat veteran, said the outcome Tuesday wasn't the result he and supporters were hoping for. But he said he's confident Vukmir would provide conservative leadership, if elected. “And that’s why this party and all of us are going to unite behind Leah Vukmir in order to beat Tammy Baldwin on November 6," he said.

With the primary in the rearview mirror, attention now turns to the November match-up between Vukmir and incumbent Baldwin.

Mordecai Lee, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professor and political analyst, expects the outcome will be based largely on how people feel about President Trump. He said voters on both sides will be engaged, resulting in a very close race.

“The way things are looking right now, my gosh — the result of the election could be tipped by some little old lady who lives off the grid in northern Wisconsin. That’s how competitive Wisconsin is right now. So, it’s anybody’s guess," he says.

The race is expected to be closely watched, as it could help determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.

Baldwin released a statement after the primary results came in. She said “Wisconsinites want someone who will be in their corner and stand up to powerful special interests in Washington, not a bought-and-paid-for Senator" like Leah Vukmir.