Madison businessman Eric Hovde is passing on a run for guv this year, telling that he’s instead looking at a bid for the U.S. Senate in 2024.

Hovde has been critical of Dem Gov. Tony Evers’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the violent protests in Madison and Kenosha in 2020.

But he said his main interest has been federal issues such as monetary policy and foreign affairs. He also said his family played a role in his decision, including recent health issues with his father-in-law.

“When I think about the issues I’ve spent my life on and what propelled me into politics the first time, those are national issues. Those are more federal issues,” said Hovde, who ran for U.S. Senate in 2012.

Hovde acknowledged two years is a long time in politics. He will continue to gauge whether a Senate bid makes sense in 2024, when Dem U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, of Madison, would be up for a third term.

Hovde is one of three Republicans who had been considering making a late entry into the guv’s race along with businessman Tim Michels and former Gov. Tommy Thompson.

Already, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, businessman Kevin Nicholson and state Rep. Tim Ramthun are formally in the GOP field to take on Evers.

Hovde said he has exchanged text messages with Thompson, who beat him for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination in 2012. Hovde said he has the “utmost respect” for Thompson and called Michels “an impressive guy.”

He said it would be “healthy” to have more people in the GOP field.

“I am not at all one of these people who believes we should be anointing someone with party insiders,” Hovde said in the phone interview. “This is no negative comment about Rebecca at all. Candidates are made better by rigorous debate on stage, having to be in front of the public and really having to make their argument. That sets us up better for a general election run.”

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