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State Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, asks a question during a meeting of the Joint Finance Committee at the State Capitol in March. At left is Wisconsin Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls. 

PHOTO BY M.P. KING -- STATE JOURNAL

On Thursday, state Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, became the second conservative to announce she will challenge Tammy Baldwin for her U.S. Senate seat in 2018.

Vukmir prides herself on her conservative record, but parts of that record could also make her vulnerable to criticism, said Mike Gousha, host of Sunday political talk show “UpFront with Mike Gousha.”

But on the show, Vukmir deflected potential critiques as attempts from the left to discredit a candidate they see as a threat.

“The left, of course, is very fearful that I am going to be the person that is taking on Tammy, and I will have a very strong campaign against her,” she said.

Gousha pointed to two possible criticisms during the campaign: Vukmir's close connection to the free market advocacy group American Legislative Exchange Council and her support of President Trump.

Critics might say her association with ALEC means she’s beholden to special corporate interests, Gousha said, noting that Democratic Party Chair Martha Laning had already called her “a national leader of a billionaire's special interest group.” ALEC creates model legislation and emphasizes limited government.

Vukmir stood by her association with ALEC, calling it a “phenomenal organization,” that “exchanges ideas with legislators across the country, Republicans and Democrats, about what’s best policy.” Washington needs voices that are going to limit the role of the federal government, which ALEC is all about, she said.

“I’m proud of my association with an organization that believes in limited government, free markets and federalism,” she said. “Of course they're going to pull out all kinds of things, because they know that I am a strong candidate, that I am a person who stands up for what she believes in and I actually get things done.”

Concerning Trump, while Vukmir acknowledged that she didn’t agree with everything the president has said and done, she said he struck a chord across the country and has done “some very good things,” pointing to his Supreme Court pick. She also said that the Foxconn deal was “very much because of Donald Trump suggesting it.”

“They're going to try to do anything to discredit me and my record,” she said. “But my record stands for what it is, and I’m proud of it.”

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Asked to point to the work she’s most proud of, she cited her work to lift the cap on the Milwaukee parental choice program for school vouchers and her efforts to help pass Act 10, which severely limited the bargaining power for most public employees.

She called Act 10 a “historic reform that quite frankly has laid the groundwork for all the other reforms that we’ve been able to do, leading up to Foxconn today.”

In Vukmir’s campaign video, she calls herself the “only clear, consistent conservative in this race.” Gousha asked whether she’s suggesting that another Republican candidate, Kevin Nicholson, is not a real conservative. Nicholson is a businessman and former Marine whose conservative credentials have already been questioned because of his past as a Democrat.

Vukmir said that while she appreciated Nicholson’s military service, “other than that, I don’t know what his record is as a conservative.”

“You’re not convinced he’s a conservative?” Gousha asked.

“I don’t know what his record is, we don’t know what his record is,” she said.