Republican Businessman Eric Hovde Set To Challenge Wisconsin Senate Seat

By Javier Sanchez | Friday, 16 February 2024 03:00 PM
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Eric Hovde, a prominent Republican businessman, is poised to announce his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, challenging Democratic incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

The announcement is expected to be made next week, according to Ben Voelkel, Hovde's campaign spokesperson.

The re-election of Baldwin for a third term is seen as crucial for the Democrats' aspirations to retain their majority in the Senate. The party is defending 23 seats in the upcoming November elections, including two held by independents who caucus with the Democrats. In contrast, the Republicans are seeking to retain 11 seats.

Hovde, 59, has been meticulously preparing for his Senate run, securing support from the National Republican Senatorial Committee and recently recruiting staff. He has also made appearances at Republican events throughout the state.

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In 2012, Hovde made a previous attempt at a Senate seat, positioning himself as a free-market conservative. However, he was defeated in the Republican primary by former Gov. Tommy Thompson. Thompson subsequently lost to Baldwin, who is now seeking her third term.

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During his 2012 campaign, Hovde advocated for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the national healthcare law enacted by former President Barack Obama. He also opposed abortion and supported the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The U.S. Supreme Court did just that in 2022, a move that bolstered Democratic candidates who championed abortion rights. Baldwin has already indicated that she will focus on abortion rights in this year's Senate race.

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Since his 2012 Senate bid, Hovde has largely remained out of the public spotlight, although he did air a television ad in 2020 criticizing Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hovde's business portfolio includes Hovde Properties, a real estate development firm established by his grandfather in 1933, and three banking companies. He serves as the CEO of Sunwest Bank, has featured in television commercials for the bank, and owns a $7 million estate in Laguna Beach, California, in addition to his property in Madison.

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After spending 24 years in Washington, D.C., Hovde returned to Madison in 2011.

Andrew Mamo, a spokesperson for Baldwin's campaign, dismissed Hovde as a "mega millionaire California bank owner" who will attempt to "buy this Senate seat."

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"We look forward to comparing Eric Hovde, a man who was named one of Orange County’s most influential people three years in a row, to Tammy Baldwin, a public servant with a proven track record of standing up to the wealthy and well connected on behalf of middle-class Wisconsin families," Mamo stated.

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Scott Mayer, a businessman from Franklin, and former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke are also contemplating Senate runs. Other high-profile Republicans, including U.S. Reps. Tom Tiffany and Mike Gallagher, have decided against running.

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Baldwin, known for her relentless campaigning, won her most recent re-election by 11 points. Her campaign strategy has been viewed as a blueprint for Democrats running statewide in Wisconsin. She has garnered widespread support, including from independents and voters outside of Democratic strongholds in Madison and Milwaukee, and has raised millions of dollars to fund her successful bid.

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