Photo Finish in the Badger State?
Wisconsin businessman Kevin Nicholson’s entrance into the Republican gubernatorial nomination race against former Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch raises the prospect of the GOP holding its first competitive primary election for the office in more than 75 years. The last GOP primary to be decided by single digits was in 1946 when two-term incumbent Walter Goodland defeated former state adjutant general Ralph Immell by 3.4 points. The next 25 primaries for governor from 1948 through 2018 were decided by an average of 71.1 points including 10 nominees who won without opposition – a status many state party leaders were hoping would be bestowed upon Kleefisch. Nicholson lost the Republican U.S. Senate primary by just 5.8 points to Leah Vukmir in 2018.
Kleefisch does not quite have the political stature to win the primary election unopposed. But her stature within the party is likely to be higher than Papachristou Vukmir, though both lost their respective 2018 general election contests. Thus, the former LTGUV, who made electoral history in 2012 by surviving a standalone recall election, ought to secure the gubernatorial nomination – or at least finish far ahead of Nicholson.