Republican Eric Hovde seeks to flip Democrat Baldwin’s seat red in Wisconsin Senate race

Republican businessman and real estate mogul Eric Hovde launched his bid for the U.S. Senate against Wisconsin Democratic incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin on Tuesday, saying in a video that “America is slipping away” and “everything is going in the wrong direction.”

This is Hovde’s second Senate campaign; he ran in 2012 but lost in the GOP primary to former Gov. Tommy Thompson. Baldwin went on to win election that year and is now seeking a third term in battleground Wisconsin.

Hovde planned to hold his first campaign event later Tuesday with an event at a building developed by his real estate company. In a video posted on his campaign website, Hovde mentioned the economy, health care, crime and “open borders” as issues he will focus on during the campaign.

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“I believe we need to come together and find commonsense solutions,” Hovde said in the video.

Reelecting Baldwin to a third term is critical for Democratic hopes to maintain majority control of the Senate. Democrats are defending 23 seats in the Senate in November, including two held by independents who caucus with Democrats. That’s compared with just 11 seats that Republicans hope to keep in their column.

Baldwin’s campaign branded Hovde as “an out-of-touch megamillionaire” in a fundraising email sent minutes after his campaign website went live. Baldwin’s campaign said Hovde would “rubber stamp” the agenda of Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.

“Hovde would vote to pass a national abortion ban, raise taxes on working families and seniors while cutting Social Security and Medicare, and repeal the Affordable Care Act,” Wisconsin Democratic Party spokesperson Arik Wolk said separately.

Eric Hovde, candidate for the U.S. Senate, gives his concession speech to supporters during his election night party Tuesday Aug. 14, 2012 in Peawaukee, Wis. The Republican businessman and real estate mogul launched his bid for the U.S. Senate against Wisconsin Democratic incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, saying in a video that “America is slipping away” and “everything is going in the wrong direction.” This marks the second Senate campaign for Hovde, who ran in 2012 but lost in the GOP primary to former Gov. Tommy Thompson. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm of Senate Republicans, is backing Hovde.

“Eric Hovde’s experience as a job creator rather than a career politician makes him a strong candidate to flip Wisconsin’s Senate seat this year,” said Montana Sen. Steve Daines, chair of the NRSC, in a statement.

Other Republicans are considering challenging Hovde for the nomination. Scott Mayer, a Franklin businessman, and former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke are also considering Senate runs. Other higher profile Republicans, including U.S. Reps. Tom Tiffany and Mike Gallagher, opted against running.

Mayer’s campaign had no comment Tuesday.

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Wisconsin’s primary is scheduled for Aug. 13.

In his 2012 race, Hovde described himself as a free-market conservative. He campaigned as a supporter of overturning the Affordable Care Act, the national health care law signed by former President Barack Obama, an abortion opponent and supporter of overturning Roe v. Wade. The U.S. Supreme Court did that in 2022, fueling wins by Democratic candidates that year who supported abortion rights. Baldwin has already said she plans to highlight abortion rights in this year’s Senate race.

Hovde’s business empire includes Hovde Properties, a real estate development company founded by his grandfather in 1933, and three banking companies. He is CEO of Sunwest Bank, has appeared in television commercials for them that air out west, and owns a $7 million estate in Laguna Beach, California, in addition to his property in Madison.

He returned to Madison in 2011 after living in Washington, D.C., for 24 years.

Democrats have branded Hovde as a carpetbagger who left his California mansion to run for Senate in Wisconsin, where he was born and raised.

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Baldwin most recently won reelection by 11 points in a race that was seen as a model for how to run as a Democrat statewide in Wisconsin. She is a tireless campaigner, garnered broad support, including among independents and voters outside of Democratic strongholds in Madison and Milwaukee, and she raised millions of dollars to fuel the successful bid.

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