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Eric Hove in August 2012. (WisPolitics.com)

It is quite possible that Wisconsin’s incumbent Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who will be up for reelection next year, will face Republican businessman Eric Hovde. The policy differences between Baldwin and Hovde could not be more stark, particularly on the issue of abortion rights. 

Although Hovde has not officially announced a run in 2024, NBC reported on Oct. 24 that he had told a gathering of the Republican Party of Jefferson County that he was “praying hard about it, looking hard at it, working through with my wife and my two daughters, and you may see something.” 

Hovde ran for Senate in 2012 but lost in the primary to Republican former Gov. Tommy Thompson. Hovde was endorsed in the primary by the Wisconsin Right to Life Political Action Committee, an extreme anti-abortion organization that supports Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion law banning abortion in all cases, even rape or incest. 

When radio host Jerry Bader asked Hovde his position on abortion in April 2012, Hovde said: “Let me start by saying, when you get into this political arena, you never come to appreciate how low people will stoop. First of all, I am a strong believer in pro-life. I am totally opposed to abortion.”

Hovde owns a property management company and several properties in Wisconsin. He was previously a hedge fund manager in the District of Columbia, is the president and CEO of Hovde Capital, and is the chairman and CEO of Sunwest Bank, which has locations in Arizona, California, Florida, and Idaho. 

Arik Wolk, a spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, told the Wisconsin Independent that Hovde has suggested he would spend $20 million of his own money on the race if he enters.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in September that an online survey had recently been sent out to Wisconsin Senate voters asking their opinions about Hovde, Baldwin, and former President Donald Trump. 

The survey included comments about the senator: “Tammy Baldwin has been a professional politician for 38 years. In Washington, Baldwin votes with Joe Biden nearly 100% of the time and has supported trillions in new spending that sent inflation to a forty-year high and cost Wisconsin families $10,000 a year.”

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the origin of the survey remains unknown, but the outlet indicated that it likely had come from a Hovde ally. 

In 2022, the Associated Press reported that Hovde had announced that he would not run for Wisconsin governor, but he indicated at the time he would consider a run for the Senate in 2024. 

Baldwin, the country’s first openly gay U.S. senator and the first woman elected to Congress from Wisconsin, will be running for a third term. She has been unwavering in her support for reproductive rights while also winning support from Wisconsin’s rural and more conservative voters. 

Baldwin recently introduced the Dairy Pride Act, bipartisan legislation that would protect dairy farmers by prohibiting the labeling of nondairy products with dairy names such as “milk.” In 2017, Baldwin reintroduced the Buy America bill, legislation to rebuild the nation’s drinking water infrastructure with American-made iron and steel.

 In 2018, former President Donald Trump signed the bill into law, keeping the Wisconsin-based Neenah Foundry up and running. The foundry’s work can now be seen in nearly every manhole cover in Madison. 

“On behalf of Neenah Enterprises of Neenah, Wisconsin, our deep appreciation goes to Senator Baldwin for her leadership in securing a five-year extension of the procurement preference for American-made iron and steel products for drinking water infrastructure,” said Scott Hoffman, Neenah Foundry’s Municipal Groups vice president. “Senator Baldwin has been a leader on a multitude of Buy America efforts to ensure that taxpayer-financed public infrastructure uses castings produced in American foundries like Neenah.”

Baldwin was also a lead sponsor of H.R. 8296, the Women’s Health Protection Act, a bill that would enshrine in federal law “a person’s ability to determine whether to continue or end a pregnancy and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide abortion services.” 

“I think there’s a non-insignificant amount of Trump-Tammy voters out there, and I think a lot of it is because she has a very unique brand, where she’s able to talk about issues that fire at the Democratic base, things like abortion rights, or her work on the Respect for Marriage Act, while also talking about more niche, parochial Wisconsin issues that cut across party lines,” Wolk said. 

Baldwin has also repeatedly garnered 100% scores from both Reproductive Freedom for All (formerly NARAL Pro-Choice America) and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

“Eric Hovde is an anti-choice radical who’s said he opposes a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions, was endorsed by a group that wants to ban abortion–without any exceptions, and has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to other anti-choice politicians. That’s dangerously out-of-touch with Wisconsin values,” Wolk said in an email. 

Hovde did not immediately return a request for comment for this story.

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