Kevin Nicholson is a Republican candidate whom many analysts believe has a strong chance of becoming Wisconsin’s next U.S. senator. A Marine veteran who went on to obtain a Harvard education and became a successful businessman, Nicholson boasts credentials that many politicians would die for.
However, he lacks support from a couple very close to him.
Nicholson’s mom and dad both donated $2,700, the maximum amount legally allowed, to his likely general election opponent, Democrat Sen. Tammy Baldwin.
In a further personal blow, Federal Election Commission filings indicate that Nicholson’s parents, Donna and Michael, opened their checkbooks months after he had officially entered the race.
According to Nicholson, this was to be expected as his parents have always been lifelong Democrats.
“My parents have a different worldview than I do, and it is not surprising that they would support a candidate like Tammy Baldwin who shares their perspective,” he said in a statement, according to CNN.
Financial records certainly confirm this point. Nicholson’s mother has proven to be a prolific financial supporter of Democratic candidates for office.
In the past, Donna Nicholson donated $441 to Baldwin’s campaign and $500 to former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold. She has also lent financial support to national Democratic candidates, having donated $500 Hillary Clinton’s presidential election effort, according to the Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.
More recently, Nicholson’s mother has donated to various Democratic lawmakers across the country, including Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia and now-retired Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota. She is also a major donor to Democracy for America, a progressive political action committee that works to elect Democrats to office across the U.S.
The donations are not all that surprising given that Nicholson has long stated that he hails from a Democratic family. In fact, Nicholson was once a rising star in the Democratic Party.
While a student at the University of Minnesota, Nicholson was elected president of the College Democrats of America in 1999. The victory gave him a full-time position at the Democratic National Committee and a speaking slot of the 2000 DNC convention. A C-SPAN clip of that speech is still available online.
However, Nicholson’s life experiences after college led him on a path to a more conservative worldview. One of those experiences being his relationship to his future wife, Jessie Nicholson (nee Roos), a prominent conservative on campus. The other experience was his entry into the Marine Corps.
The former Democrat went on to serve tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, earning a Bronze Star for his heroic leadership. It was here where Nicholson said he began to question national Democrats’ attacks on the Middle East wars.
“I knew what we were doing there. We were stabilizing that country. We made incredible amounts of progress. And what I was hearing back home was a complete and absolute lie, as politicians were running around calling it a failure,” he explained in a Politico profile last year.
Nicholson explained more recently what led him to the Republican Party. The former pro-choice, big government activist is now solidly pro-life, closer to God and favors a free market approach to economics.
“I’m a conservative today not because I was born one, but because of the experience I earned as a Marine in combat, my experience as a husband and father, my choice to be a Christian, the schools I chose to attend and the decision to pursue the career that I have,” he stated to the Washington Post.
The transformation ultimately made Nicholson into a conservative Republican. While some may question his ideological bona fides, given his past history with liberal politics, he has already won over very important players in the Republican arena.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, long viewed as a maverick that enjoys bucking the GOP establishment, lent his endorsement to Nicholson in early January. The endorsement gives the Senate candidate greatly needed conservative credentials as he aims to impress primary voters.
And Cruz isn’t the only one getting behind Nicholson’s campaign.
The first-time candidate earned Club for Growth’s endorsement, giving him the support of a well established conservative organization. Nicholson is also backed by former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton and his political action committee.
Included in Nicholson’s roster of wealthy GOP donors is Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein. The couple are major GOP benefactors who have already pumped several million into a super PAC for his benefit.
The newly-minted Republican has a strong chance at becoming the GOP Senate nominee in Wisconsin. In a state that has trended red in recent years, he may even succeed in defeating Sen. Baldwin, a lesbian Democrat who’s voting record is much more liberal than the average voter in her state.
Trump won Wisconsin, the first time a Republican presidential candidate has done so since Reagan. Additionally, Gov. Scott Walker has built a formidable GOP operation in the state and will be running for re-election this year. Despite this strong shift to the right, Baldwin remains one of the most liberal members of the Senate, leaving her quite vulnerable.
“Tammy is one of the most liberal members of the Senate in a state won barely — but won — by Trump,” Charles Franklin, the polling director at Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, stated to HuffPost. “And Walker is on the ballot for a third term. I think structurally, those were reasons for outside groups in particular to think this would be a tough battle for her.”
Wisconsin is now on par with other Trump-won states such as Missouri, Indiana and West Virginia as major GOP pickup opportunities.
Nevertheless, news of Nicholson’s mom and dad donating to his Democratic opponent still make for embarrassing headlines.
While Nicholson’s parents have already donated the maximum amount allowed for a primary election season, they can donate more once the general election begins. Should he win the primary and become the official Republican Party nominee, it’s not entirely clear if his parents will once again opt to donate to Baldwin’s campaign.
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