Ex-Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson Nabs GOP Senate Nomination

Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson.<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/whereisyourmind/400348737/sizes/m/in/photostream/">whereisyourmind</a>/Flickr

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

A decade after ending his four-term run as Wisconsin governor, the man known in the Badger State simply as “Tommy” is back in the running. On Tuesday night, Thompson clinched the Republican nomination in the fight to replace outgoing Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl. In November, Thompson will face liberal hero Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) (whom I profiled here) in the first statewide race of her career.

Thompson is a household name in Wisconsin, but his primary victory was far from a lock. Hedge fund manager and political newcomer Eric Hovde, who dumped more than $5 million of his own money into his campaign, led Thompson in several polls leading up to Tuesday’s primary. Also on the losing end of Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary were ex-congressman Mark Neumann, a tea party favorite, and state Assembly speaker Jeff Fitzgerald.

Thompson claimed 34 percent of the vote, while Hovde won 31 percent, Neumann 23 percent, and Fitzgerald 12 percent.

Democrats would have preferred any of Thompson’s defeated opponents come November. He’s the clear frontrunner, having led Baldwin in three consecutive Marquette University Law School polls this summer—by 8 percent in June, 4 percent in July, and 5 percent in August. His name recognition surpasses that of Baldwin, polls show, and after a career of deal-brokering in Wisconsin and Washington, he is a masterful fundraiser. He’s raised $2.5 million so far this campaign, with $350,000 currently in the bank.

Baldwin, who if elected would be the first openly gay senator in US history, is no fundraising rookie. She’s banked $7.1 million this campaign, and boasts an impressive $3.1 million in the bank. Her own primary night speech on Tuesday made no mention of Thompson. But in a statement, she slammed the former governor as being too cozy with special interests and inside players in Washington. “Tonight, the Republican primary electorate presented Wisconsin voters with a clear choice for the November election,” she said. “Make no mistake, Tommy Thompson will stand with those who already have too much power and influence in Washington.”


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend