Senate Republicans looking to recruit Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher received disappointing news Friday morning when the congressman announced that he’d run for reelection rather than challenge Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin. Both local and national Republicans—including NRSC chair Steve Daines—had spent months trying to convince Gallagher to seek a promotion, and the NRSC even tried to entice the Marine veteran with a recent internal poll showing him trailing the incumbent by a narrow 47-46 margin.
Several other Badger State Republicans could still get in, though, including one far-right figure that the NRSC almost certainly doesn’t want as their standard-bearer. Former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke celebrated Gallagher’s decision by crowing about a survey the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling had released the previous day that showed him far ahead of his would-be rival in a hypothetical GOP primary. “This poll has to give the RNC and the National Republican Senatorial Committee sleepless nights when somebody outside their establishment circle wipes away these other GOP potential primary candidates,” tweeted Clarke. “None of them energizes or excites the base voter like I do.”
Rep. Tom Tiffany, meanwhile, recently told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he’d decide whether or not to run “probably end of July, August, something like that.” A spokesperson was a little more definitive with the timeline, informing Axios that the congressman “plans to make a decision in August.” However, while Tiffany and Gallagher represent neighboring northern Wisconsin districts, they cut very different profiles.
Tiffany responded to Joe Biden’s 2020 victory by joining a failed lawsuit that would have let Wisconsin's GOP-controlled legislature ignore voters and instead award the state's electoral votes to Donald Trump. He then joined the majority of his caucus in voting to overturn Biden’s win hours after the Jan. 6 attack. True to form, he responded to Trump’s federal indictment Thursday by calling it part of the “politically motivated attacks against conservatives.” Politico, by contrast, wrote earlier this month that one of the reasons Gallagher was such a prized recruit was that he’d voted the other way on Jan. 6 and has continued to criticize Trump.
The race could also prove newly tempting for other Republicans now that they know they won’t have to face Gallagher. Wealthy businessman Eric Hovde, who lost a close primary for this seat in 2012, said last month he’d decide on another try by December, while another rich businessman, Scott Mayer, has pledged to make up his mind by Labor Day. The Journal Sentinel also reported in March that former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who lost last year’s primary for governor, wasn’t ruling out a Senate bid, though we haven't heard anything about her interest since then. Finally, the Dispatch, a conservative site, wrote in May that businessman Kevin Nicholson, who failed to win the 2018 nod to take on Baldwin, was also considering another try.
This week on "The Downballot," we're joined by guest host Joe Sudbay and law professor Quinn Yeargain for a deep dive into major political developments in three states. First up is Arizona, where a key GOP retirement on the Board of Supervisors in jumbo Maricopa County gives Democrats an excellent chance to win their first majority since the 1960s. Then it's on to Arkansas, where citizens are working to overturn a Republican bill that purports to ban "critical race theory" in public schools by qualifying a referendum for the ballot. Finally, we hit Michigan, where Democrats just advanced a measure to have the state add its Electoral College votes to a multistate compact that would elect the president by the national popular vote.