Republican Kevin Nicholson today formally launched his bid for guv, promising to be a “fighter whose sole focus is getting things done.”

Nicholson’s entry into the race sets up the potential for a bruising GOP primary with former  Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who formally announced her run last fall.

In recent weeks, Nicholson has made clear he will run as an outsider and took a veiled shot at Kleefisch in his announcement. Kleefisch spent eight years as lieutenant governor and has been the favorite of many Republicans in the state’s professional political class.

“We can’t take Wisconsin to new heights if we elect a governor from the same, tired political class that lacks the vision, ability, and will to fight for the future of our state,” Nicholson said.

Businessman Jonathan Wichmann, of Franklin, has also filed to run for the GOP nomination to take on Gov. Tony Evers. Madison businessman Eric Hovde also has been weighing a bid.

Democratic Governors Association Executive Director Noam Lee called Nicholson an “extremist” who supports abortion bans with no exceptions.

“He has already signaled a divisive primary ahead, attacking Rebecca Kleefisch’s proposals for being ‘dumb as a bag of hammers,’” Lee said. “Nicholson’s entrance to the GOP primary will trigger a brutal, expensive race to the right where candidates duke it out over who’s most out-of-touch with Wisconsin values.”

Nicholson ran unsuccessfully for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination in 2018 as he ran against then-state Sen. Leah Vukmir, a Republican lawmaker. During that campaign, Nicholson struggled to win over some in GOP circles because of his past as chair of the national College Dems two decades ago.

Following that loss, the former U.S. Marine launched No Better Friend Corp. to promote conservative ideas. As he traveled the state, Nicholson said he was considering a bid for guv or U.S. Senate in 2022 as U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, weighed seeking a third bid. Once Johnson formally announced his reelection plans, Nicholson turned his focus to the guv’s race.

His formal announcement comes days after Illinois businessman Dick Uihlein urged him to run for guv. Groups backed by the GOP megadonor spent an estimated $11 million supporting Nicholson’s 2018 Senate bid.

Meanwhile, his wife Liz Uihlein has donated both to Kleefisch and a PAC supporting her guv bid. That has upped the expectation of an expensive battle for the GOP nomination.

See the release.


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