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Tony Evers raised record-setting $10 million last year in reelection bid

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Democratic Gov. Tony Evers raised another $5 million in the second half of last year, bringing his 2021 fundraising total to more than $10 million — the most raised in a year by any gubernatorial candidate in state history, his campaign said Monday.

Evers’ $10.5 million on hand was announced hours after former Lt. Gov. and Republican gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Kleefisch reported raising more than $3.3 million in the first four months of her campaign, marking one of the biggest hauls among a Wisconsin candidate’s first fundraising report.

Wisconsin’s 2022 gubernatorial race is expected to draw in a bevy of financial contributions, with Democrats looking to stave off a GOP push to unseat the incumbent governor, who has blocked several Republican-authored bills over the last three years. If Republicans oust Evers, the party would regain a trifecta of GOP control in Wisconsin.

“Our fundraising success highlights the overwhelming grassroots support Governor Evers has earned by bringing common sense solutions and Wisconsin values back to the governor’s office,” Evers’ campaign manager Cassi Fenili said in a statement. “Wisconsinites know how important it is to re-elect Governor Evers and continue moving Wisconsin forward.”

Evers’ campaign reported receiving more than 38,000 donations over the second half of last year, including contributions from all 72 counties in the state. Evers received contributions from more than 32,000 donors in all of last year, according to his campaign.

Evers’ $10.5 million in campaign funds is twice the amount raised by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker at this point in both his 2014 and 2018 reelection campaigns.

Neither Evers nor Kleefisch provided formal campaign finance documents for the second half of 2021, which are due to the Wisconsin Ethics Commission next Tuesday. Fundraising figures are just one component of a successful campaign or political party, but they can offer a glimpse into the campaign or party’s organization, donor base and overall support.

Kleefisch, who spent eight years in office with Walker, must first win a GOP primary on Aug. 9, though her campaign has directly targeted incumbent Evers.

The former TV news anchor reported raising more than $3.3 million since launching her campaign in September. That amount is more than 10 times the roughly $312,000 raised by Evers in the early months of his campaign leading up to his eventual victory over Walker in 2018. Kleefisch’s fundraising total also surpasses the previous high of $1.3 million reported by Republican Mark Neumann in 2010. In 2009, Walker raised about $1.1 million in his first reporting period.

“Our campaign has the infrastructure that will unite conservatives to take back Wisconsin and retire Tony Evers,” Kleefisch said in a statement.

Kleefisch’s campaign reported raising funds from nearly 7,000 people across the state’s 72 counties since joining the race in September. The Associated Press reported on Monday that Freedom Wisconsin PAC, a political action committee created to help Kleefisch, reported raising $277,000.

While Kleefisch remains the most prominent Republican currently running for governor, Kevin Nicholson, a former U.S. Marine who lost in the 2018 U.S. Senate Republican primary, and Madison businessman Eric Hovde also are weighing potential gubernatorial bids.

Hovde, who lost in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in 2012, told The Associated Press on Monday that he was “seriously evaluating” a run for governor and would decide within weeks.

Hovde, a millionaire with the ability to self-finance, was unfazed by Kleefisch’s fundraising totals.

“Good for her, but that would not have any impact on my decision making,” he said.

Nicholson previously said that he would run for governor if U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson sought a third Senate term. With Johnson formally announcing his reelection bid on Sunday, Nicholson tweeted that “it’s no secret that I’m considering a run for Governor. It is time for new leadership in Wisconsin.”

“I do believe I have a role to play in setting the course for a better future for all of us,” Nicholson tweeted Sunday. “Over the coming days my family, friends, and I will continue to pray for wisdom for our next steps.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Top 10 Wisconsin political stories of 2021 (based on what you, the readers, read)

2021 was another big year in Wisconsin politics. Sen. Ron Johnson said some things. Voters elected a new state superintendent. Gov. Tony Evers and Republicans clashed over mask mandates. Michael Gableman threatened to jail the mayors of Madison and Green Bay. Here are 10 political stories you, the readers, checked out in droves.

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Since the start of the outbreak, Gov. Tony Evers has issued multiple public health emergencies and a series of related orders. 

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Sen. Ron slammed the impeachment over the weekend as “vindictive and divisive,” and possibly a “diversionary operation” by Democrats to distract from security lapses at the U.S. Capitol.

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"I wouldn’t run if I don’t think I could win," said Johnson, who is undecided on a re-election bid. 

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The board had previously not required masks in schools after some in the public voiced opposition.

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With a new order announced, Republicans may be forced to start the process all over again to vote down the governor's emergency order and accompanying mask mandate, but the most likely outcome appears to be an eventual court decision.

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Fort McCoy officials acknowledge there were initial problems with food supply, but that and other issues are being addressed.

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The idea is in its infancy and all options, including declining to pursue anything, are on the table.

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Gableman has asked the court, which plans to take up the matter on Dec. 22, to compel the two mayors to meet with him.

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Deborah Kerr said she has also voted for Republicans and tells GOP audiences on the campaign trail for the officially nonpartisan race that she is a "pragmatic Democrat."

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Limbaugh died Wednesday at 70.


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