It doesn’t look like the two Republican candidates for U.S. Senate will be making up anytime soon, after a spat at the end of a recent debate.
Delafield businessman Kevin Nicholson and state Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, are competing for the chance to challenge Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin. During their first debate Thursday, the most memorable moment was the contentious end, when Vukmir questioned Nicholson’s “track record as a Republican.”
This is not the first time Nicholson, an active Democrat in his college years, has had to defend his conservative credentials. He pointed to his service as a U.S. Marine.
"I would look to the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan if you wanted. That's where I'd look first. I know that doesn't mean much to certain politicians. I know that darn well,” he said.
Vukmir resented the implication that she didn’t respect Nicholson’s military service, calling Nicholson’s statement “a low blow” and asking for an apology.
Nicholson didn’t offer one, and he has no plans to. On Sunday’s episode of WKOW-TV’s “Capital City Sunday,” he said he’d take anyone to task who questioned his track record.
“I will never apologize for laying out what my track record is,” Nicholson said. “Look, any politician, I don’t care who it is, Tammy Baldwin or anybody else, that questions my track record and what I’ve contributed to my country and my leadership should have to answer for that. And that’s the bottom line.”
Nicholson was the president of the College Democrats of America and spoke at the 2000 Democratic National Convention. He previously described his switch to the Republican party as something of a conversion experience. His military experience, he suggested on the show, should speak for itself as a conservative validation.
“If you’re going to question it or say that somehow leading Marines in defense of the Constitution and its conservative principals is not in fact a conservative value, I think you should have to answer for that,” he said.
If voters require additional proof, they should check out his endorsements from conservative groups and leaders like Sen. Mike Lee, Sen. Ted Cruz and the Club for Growth PAC, he said, as well as many small donations throughout the state. Nicholson cited this as proof that “the message is actually connecting with people, and that’s what matters.”
The two candidates have signed a unity pledge agreeing to support the winner of the August primary. Asked if he thought the pledge was still being upheld, Nicholson laughed.
“I personally have been through so many things in my life that last night, that’s not a big deal,” he said. “On to the next thing.”
After addressing his record, Nicholson spent significant time highlighting his role as an “outsider,” as opposed to a career politician. Vukmir is a current state Senator and former state Assembly member.
Host Emilee Fannon pointed out that Vukmir and Nicholson agreed on many issues at Thursday’s debate, like President Trump’s trade tariffs. Nicholson differentiated himself through his “outsider” status.
“I’ve said this so many times, I certainly said this in the debate: If you want to actually solve problems you can’t just keep sending the same kind of people from the same political class to do the same thing over and over again,” he said. “You have to get people from outside the system.”
Nicholson highlighted his concerns with government overspending and debt, issues he called, “so intrinsic that they can tip this republic on its side if we don’t do something about it.”
Asked for an example of how he might reduce the national debt, Nicholson pointed to health care. Health care needs “price transparency, consumer choice and honestly allowing consumers to control their health care dollars,” he said. Web portals could compare the prices of medical procedures from providers. Allowing such a market will find the true cost of those procedures in a matter of weeks, he said.
That would drive down the cost of health care, he said, not only for private consumers, but for Medicare and Medicaid.
He said career politicians can’t solve those problems, as they will be sucked into the political system.
“A career politician is going to go (to Washington), fall into a system, be beholden to a majority leader of one way, shape or form, and then do what they are expected to do within a political system,” he said.
Career politicians are unwilling to “bust up” the system, he said. As a management consultant, Nicholson said, “everytime that I have had to work with or for a client, it has been to solve a problem or add value,” with the urgency that “you either produce, or you get fired.”