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Republican businessman Eric Hovde to launch bid for Wisconsin US Senate seat

Republican businessman Eric Hovde is set to launch a bid for the U.S. Senate against Democratic incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin, his campaign spokesperson said.

Multimillionaire Republican businessman Eric Hovde is planning to launch a bid for U.S. Senate against Democratic incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin next week.

Hovde's campaign spokesperson Ben Voelkel said Thursday that Hovde, 59, will get into the race next week after months of preparation.

Reelecting Baldwin to a third term is critical for Democratic hopes to maintain majority control of the Senate. Democrats are defending 23 seats in the Senate in November, including two held by independents who caucus with Democrats. That’s compared with just 11 seats that Republicans hope to keep in their column.

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Hovde has been laying the groundwork for a run for months, lining up support from the National Republican Senatorial Committee and recently hiring staff. He has also appeared at Republican events across the state.

Hovde previously ran for Senate in 2012, describing himself then as a free-market conservative, losing in the Republican primary to former Gov. Tommy Thompson. Thompson went on to lose to Baldwin, who is now seeking her third term.

In that race, Hovde ran as a supporter of overturning the Affordable Care Act, the national health care law signed by former President Barack Obama. Hovde also ran as an opponent of abortion and supporter of overturning Roe v. Wade. The U.S. Supreme Court did that in 2022, fueling wins by Democratic candidates that year who supported abortion rights. Baldwin has already said she plans to highlight abortion rights in this year's Senate race.

Hovde has largely stayed out of the public eye since that run, although he did run a television ad in 2020 criticizing Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hovde's business empire includes Hovde Properties, a real estate development company founded by his grandfather in 1933, and three banking companies. He is CEO of Sunwest Bank, has appeared in television commercials for them that air out west, and owns a $7 million estate in Laguna Beach, California, in addition to his property in Madison.

He returned to Madison in 2011 after living in Washington, D.C., for 24 years.

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Baldwin campaign spokesperson Andrew Mamo derided Hovde as a "mega millionaire California bank owner" who will try to "buy this Senate seat."

"We look forward to comparing Eric Hovde, a man who was named one of Orange County’s most influential people three years in a row, to Tammy Baldwin, a public servant with a proven track record of standing up to the wealthy and well connected on behalf of middle-class Wisconsin families," Mamo said in a statement.

Scott Mayer, a Franklin businessman, and former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke are also considering Senate runs. Other higher profile Republicans, including U.S. Reps. Tom Tiffany and Mike Gallagher, opted against running.

Baldwin most recently won reelection by 11 points in a race that was seen as a model for how to run as a Democrat statewide in Wisconsin. She is a tireless campaigner, garnered broad support, including among independents and voters outside of Democratic strongholds in Madison and Milwaukee, and she raised millions of dollars to fuel the successful bid.

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