Billing herself as the only "clear, consistent conservative" in the race, State Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, announced on Thursday that she will seek to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.
Vukmir, 59, completed work on the state budget Wednesday evening as a member of the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee. Her candidacy guarantees a Republican primary, as she joins Marine veteran and businessman — and former College Democrats of America chairman — Kevin Nicholson in the field. Madison businessman Eric Hovde is also said to be considering a run.
In a video announcing her candidacy, Vukmir emphasized her track record as a longtime advocate for conservative causes. A registered nurse, Vukmir was first elected to the state Assembly in 2002 and to the state Senate in 2010. She serves as assistant majority leader in the Senate.
"I have a track record that people know. They can count on me. I've gotten things done," Vukmir says in the video.
Among Vukmir's legislative victories is a full repeal of the state's prevailing wage law, set to be approved in the state budget later this month. Vukmir has also championed the expansion of taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schools throughout her tenure in the Legislature. She became politically active as an education advocate when her daughter was in kindergarten.
"I"m proud to have stood shoulder to shoulder with Governor (Scott) Walker as we have passed conservative change in Wisconsin," Vukmir says in the video.
Vukmir was a supporter of Walker's signature Act 10 legislation, which effectively eliminated collective bargaining for most public employees in Wisconsin.
Her video includes footage of protesters filling the Capitol and chanting "shame!" in response to that effort.
In a statement, Vukmir said she has spoken with people who believe Baldwin "would rather stand with liberal Democrats and Washington elites than listen to what is important to hard-working Wisconsinites."
Beloit billionaire Diane Hendricks, owner of ABC Supply, will serve as Vukmir's finance co-chair. Hendricks has been a longtime supporter of conservative candidates and causes in Wisconsin, and also served as a member of President Donald Trump's economic advisory team.
Democratic Party of Wisconsin chairwoman Martha Laning said in a statement that Vukmir has spent her time in the Legislature "putting her extreme agenda ahead of the needs of Wisconsin families."
In a statement, Nicholson campaign spokesman Michael Antonpolous said "Kevin Nicholson fought in two wars to protect the freedoms of all Americans, and has said repeatedly that he respects the right of any American to use that freedom to run for office."