By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Madison businessman and former U.S. Senate candidate Eric Hovde has decided not to run for governor in what could become an increasingly crowded Republican field of candidates.
Hovde tells Empower Wisconsin that the decision not to enter the race was very difficult, but he needs to put family first. His 91-year-old father-in-law has suffered serious health complications in recent weeks. And Hovde’s family is growing with the addition of grandkids over the past few years.
Hovde, who said he’s very concerned about what’s going on in Madison and Washington, D.C. also said he’s “very seriously considering” a run for U.S. Senate in 2024 for the seat held by liberal Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison).
“What propelled me to run the first time for Senate, the failing economy, the housing market crisis, how politicians bailed out Wall Street during the Great Recession and there never were any prosecutions of the Wall Street investment bankers, well, now we’re seeing something that’s a magnitude of that,” he said.
Out-of-control spending is creating a “debt trap,” driving up inflation to economy-killing levels, while the world and the United States have become much less safe under President Joe Biden, Hovde added.
The developer, investment banker and philanthropist was a top contender in the 2012 U.S. Senate race, ultimately losing to former Gov. Tommy Thompson in the primary for the Republican nomination. Thompson lost to Baldwin.
Now Thompson, Wisconsin’s longest-serving governor, is weighing another gubernatorial run. So reportedly is Wisconsin infrastructure industry executive Tim Michels.
They would join Rebecca Kleefisch, lieutenant governor under Gov. Scott Walker, management consultant and former U.S. Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson and state Rep. Timothy Ramthun of Campellsport.
Hovde isn’t endorsing just yet, but he said he eventually may.
“I have the highest regard for Tommy Thompson. Tim Michels has an impressive background. I like Rebecca. I don’t really know much about Kevin but I’ve heard him speak a few times. He’s a smart guy,” Hovde said, adding that he will “wholeheartedly” support whomever goes on to face the incumbent, liberal Gov. Tony Evers.
He said he had never considered running for governor until 2020, when Evers began locking down the state, businesses and the economy in response to the pandemic. In early May of that year, days before the Wisconsin Supreme Court found Evers’ extended lockdowns violated state law, Hovde released a 60-second TV ad demanding the Democrat re-open Wisconsin. His 501(c)(4) organization also launched a website, OpenWisconsinToday.org.
“I knew the impacts of locking people down,” he said, pointing to the shocking rise in teen suicides and attempts in Dane County and Wisconsin. He noted Wisconsin’s sinking academic achievement, particularly alarmingly low proficiency scores in reading and math.
“The governor was deputy superintendent and superintendent (of the Department of Public Instruction) over the period of decline. It’s all on him,” Hovde said. “That why I was seriously considering running for governor.”