Election 2020

Wisconsin Dem Goes GOP, Wants Chance to Run Against Sen. Baldwin

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) speaks on Capitol Hill on Aug. 2, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Gilliam Drummond, the spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Democrats, accuses Kevin Nicholson of being a “billionaire’s puppet” and a “political opportunist,” while his only declared opponent in the Wisconsin GOP Senate primary says she’s the real Republican in the race.

It’s true Nicholson was once the president of College Democrats of America and spoke in favor of abortion rights — an ex-girlfriend told Politico she nearly dumped him because of that — but the ex-Marine says now that serving in two wars, getting married and having three children can change a man’s political views.

“After you’ve been in the face with that much reality, you can’t help but be a conservative,” he said.

Drummond told the AP that Nicholson hasn’t changed. “He’s always been a political opportunist,” she said.

Nicholson, a business consultant who was the first candidate to enter the 2018 GOP Senate primary, freely admits he was president of the College Democrats of America 17 years ago, and he did speak at the 2000 Democratic National Convention.

“I was a Democrat,” Nicholson said in a video announcing his candidacy. “I used to do nothing and know everything.”

“I saw things in the Democratic Party that I didn’t like,” Nicholson told RightWisconsin. “I saw the beginning of identity politics. People separated by the color of their skin, by their gender, pitted against each other for resources. That’s what the Democrat Party does. That’s the way they run their elections now.”

Nicholson also said his views have evolved. For instance, during his speech at the convention where Al Gore was nominated to run against George W. Bush, Nicholson “voiced his support for a woman’s right to choose.”

During his campaign’s three-minute introductory video, Nicholson explained why and how his view of abortion had changed.

“The one thing in life you cannot compromise are your principles,” Nicholson said in his video. “I’m strongly pro-life. I’ve seen innocent children killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. And here in this country, it is unacceptable for our government to systematically allow the lives of innocent children to be taken.”

However, Nicholson disputes a U.S. News & World Report article that showed he registered as a Democrat in North Carolina in 2005 and may have even voted for a Democratic in the 2008 presidential primary. Nicholson told the Associated Press he voted “no preference” in 2008.

Nicholson had the GOP Senate primary to himself until state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R) entered the race Sept. 7. In her initial campaign video, “Wisconsin Way,” Vukmir described herself as the “consistent conservative.”

“There’s no question what you get with me,” Vukmir said.

“I stood with Gov. Walker and real conservatives to enact successful reforms that keep jobs here in Wisconsin, keep more of your hard-earned money in your pocket, and make our communities better places to raise a family,” Vukmir said in a statement.

Democrats like David Bergstein might have a problem with Vukmir’s voting record, but the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman said Nicholson is nothing but someone “who will say and do anything to get elected.”

“Whether he’s supporting the toxic GOP healthcare plan that will increase costs and strip coverage for hardworking families, or trying to mislead his fellow Republicans about his past in order to advance his political career,” Bergstein said, “Nicholson has proven he’s only ever looking out for one person: Kevin Nicholson.”

Nicholson’s ex-college roommate has also questioned his motivation.

“I was @KevinMNicholson roommate in college,” tweeted Adam Tillotson. “He is everything that is wrong with politics — self serving, pugnacious, & narcissistic #fraud”

Tillotson said when he and Nicholson shared an apartment while attending the University of Minnesota, “We were very die-hard Democrats. He bled blue.”

“In the post, Tillotson said his former roommate was obsessed with becoming president,” the Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal reported. “Nicholson, he said, was also concerned about getting photographed drinking beer or kissing his girlfriend in public for fear it might be used against him one day.”

“Everything was about Kevin,” Tillotson said. “He’s a more polished and more educated version of Donald Trump.”

Michael Antonopoulos, a Nicholson campaign consultant, told the Journal-Sentinel that Tillotson should be ignored since he was a donor to the Obama presidential campaign and was a government union activist.

“So it’s sad, but not surprising, since Adam is clearly a partisan Democrat, to see him making ridiculous and unfounded accusations about Kevin on social media,” he said.

But in the end, will Wisconsin Republicans condemn Nicholson for his past sins or be forgiving enough to give him their votes to run against Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin in November?

Jack Voight is one Republican who believes Nicholson’s past with Democrats is an advantage.

“Just like Ronald Reagan,” Voight told Politico, “he has seen the other side.”