Businessman Eric Hovde will run for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate race in Wisconsin, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Steve Daines told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Wednesday.
“Eric Hovde is gonna get in that race,” Daines said. “We’re behind him.”
The NRSC, which works to elect Republicans to the Senate, has been searching for a candidate to take on Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who is up for reelection in 2024.
Republicans are targeting Baldwin as they try to win back the Senate majority that they lost in 2020. President Joe Biden won in Wisconsin by less than 1 point that same year.
Headed into the election year, however, no top-tier Republican candidates have announced bids.
National Republicans wanted Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) to run. However, he declined a bid back in June. Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-WI) also passed on a bid in August, as did a handful of other Republican members of the Wisconsin congressional delegation.
Hovde would be the first top-tier Republican challenger to Baldwin if he does enter the race.
However, even though Daines said national Republicans would back Hovde’s candidacy, it’s possible he will have other GOP challengers.
Former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, a right-wing conspiracy theorist who has spread former President Donald Trump’s lies about voter fraud in the 2020 election, is also mulling a bid, as is Scott Mayer, another wealthy businessman.
A Public Policy Polling survey from June that included Gallagher and Tiffany found Clarke in the lead with 40%, followed by Gallagher with 20%, Tiffany with 10%, and Hovde trailing far behind with just 3%.
While national Republicans say they back Hovde, the Wisconsin Republican comes with baggage.
First, Hovde reportedly currently lives in Laguna Beach, California, in a $7 million home he purchased in 2018. That could open him up to criticism from Democrats, who have attacked other GOP candidates who owned expensive real estate in states they were not running in. For example in 2022, Democrats attacked Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels for owning a $17 million home in Greenwich, Connecticut. Michels went on to lose to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers by more than 3 points.
He has promised to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. A new poll from Navigator Research found Obamacare has its highest public approval rating yet, with 61% viewing the health care law favorably.
He’s also made controversial comments in the past disparaging voters.
“Most of the country, sadly, doesn’t know what the heck is going on,” Hovde said in a radio interview in 2016, according to the Heartland Signal. “They can’t even tell you when our country was founded, who the vice president [sic], how many senators there are. It’s just deplorable how low people are keeping themselves informed.”
Hovde did not return a request for comment about whether he is planning to enter the race.
Inside Elections, the nonpartisan political analysis outlet, currently rates the race “Lean Democratic.”