Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate contest has quietly become one of the top races of the 2018 cycle, with conservative interests throwing millions into defeating Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). So far, groups connected to Illinois-based billionaire Dick Uihlein have dominated the airwaves on behalf of Republican candidate Kevin Nicholson.
But last week, another billionaire’s money went on the air in the heated GOP primary.
Wisconsin Next PAC is out with a new ad supporting state Sen. Leah Vukmir ― the first pro-Vukmir ad run by a super PAC. The spot plays up her association with Gov. Scott Walker (R).
Wisconsin Next PAC has received $500,000 from billionaire businesswoman Diane Hendricks, who is also backing Vukmir. It’s also received $25,000 from an employee of ABC Supply, the roofing distributor that Hendricks chairs.
The super PAC is spending $575,000 to run the ad statewide on television and another $50,000 for digital spots.
Vukmir has the support of much of the GOP establishment in Wisconsin, including Walker. Nicholson is a less traditional candidate. Previously, he was best known politically for chairing the College Democrats of America and speaking at the 2000 Democratic convention. Since then, the Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran has moved to the right and picked up support from the Club for Growth, a group that promotes fiscal conservative policies.
Baldwin is already facing more outside spending by conservative groups than all other Democratic senators on the ballot this year combined. Republicans see the progressive Democrat as a prime target in a state that Trump won in 2016. With Walker up for re-election in November as well, they’re hoping that GOP voters turn out to counter the energy on the left.
Republicans in Wisconsin have received some warning signs. In January, Democrat Patty Schachtner won a state Senate seat in a district that Trump won by 17 points. Republicans had held the seat since 2001.
And last week, for the first time in 23 years, a liberal candidate won an open Supreme Court seat in the state.
Correction: This piece originally stated that ABC Supply had given $25,000 to Wisconsin Next PAC. The donation came from an employee at the company.