Wisconsin’s top two Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, Leah Vukmir and Kevin Nicholson, told GOP activists Thursday that they’re open to placing more armed personnel in schools to prevent mass shootings.
Vukmir and Nicholson broadly agreed on a series of policy questions at a public forum in Madison Thursday night. Both criticized the current federal role in higher education, praised the recent GOP federal tax overhaul and said giving consumers more information about their health care choices would lower costs.
The forum was sponsored by the Republican Women of Dane County.
It was devoid of the infighting that marked the close of the candidates’ previous debate, when they sparred sharply over Nicholson’s military record and his comments about Wisconsin’s GOP establishment.
Vukmir and Nicholson are running in the Aug. 14 primary for the nod to face Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, of Madison, in November.
The candidates previously voiced support for allowing local school officials to decide whether to place more armed personnel, including armed teachers, in schools under certain circumstances.
“If they think that they should arm individuals in that school, then that’s the decision that I would support,” Vukmir reiterated Thursday.
Nicholson said he favors placing armed police officers or security guards in schools. Where that’s not possible, he said he favors “training volunteers who go to live-fire training on a consistent basis, that they are prepared for the challenge of what they’re offering themselves up to do.”
Vukmir, a Brookfield state senator, said Thursday that “we have to get the federal government out of the business of loans.”
Asked after the forum if Vukmir wants the federal government to stop subsidizing student loans, as President Donald Trump has proposed, Vukmir spokeswoman Jess Ward said “she means that the federal government doesn’t belong in the business of administering loans.”
Nicholson called for measures to encourage college students to graduate more quickly and to counsel them against taking on debt.
Vukmir, in her opening remarks, touted her work with Gov. Scott Walker and statehouse Republicans to pass Act 10 and other conservative changes into law. She also cited the endorsement she won from the Republican Party of Wisconsin at its recent state convention in Milwaukee.
Nicholson, a Delafield management consultant who has not held elected office, likened himself to Trump in praising the president’s work to date.
“Nobody but a political outsider would be able to accomplish what he has accomplished to this point,” Nicholson said.
Speaking to reporters after the event, Vukmir and Nicholson did not say if they support Trump’s plan, announced Thursday afternoon, to impose new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from U.S. allies such as Canada, Mexico and the European Union.
Nicholson responded to a question about the tariffs by saying “we need to get to a world without tariffs,” adding that he supports Trump revisiting existing trade deals. Pressed on whether he supports the new tariffs, Nicholson said, “I’ve said my piece.”
Vukmir said, “I’m going to want to make sure that it doesn’t hurt our state and our country, so I’ll watch it closely.” Asked again if she backs the tariffs, Vukmir said she will “watch it very carefully.”
After the forum, neither Vukmir nor Nicholson would say whether they support President Donald Trump’s planned tariffs on steel and aluminum.