Kevin Nicholson suspends campaign for Wisconsin governor; Michels and Kleefisch court his supporters

DELAFIELD, Wis. — Republican candidate Kevin Nicholson is suspending his run for governor, according to a news release from his campaign Tuesday afternoon.

Nicholson said he is proud of what he has built over the course of his six-month campaign but determined in the last week that his only way forward in the race would have been to attack other Republican candidates and run a negative campaign — something he did not want to do or believe would have been good for his party.

“While our team has the capability to do that, that is not something I want to do – nor do I believe that it would be good for the party to do so. This election is too important for our state and our movement,” Nicholson said in his statement.

He thanked those who supported and donated to his campaign but said he does not plan to endorse a different candidate before the August primary to determine who will face Gov. Tony Evers in November.

Nicholson has generally trailed former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and businessman Tim Michels in polls gauging the race for the Republican nomination for governor. In the Marquette Law Poll released on June 22, Nicholson was a distant third in the race, being named as the primary choice for only 10 percent of those polled, compared to 26 percent for Kleefisch and 27 percent for Michels. Nearly one-third of poll respondents said they didn’t know who their choice would be.

Michels and Kleefisch both issued statements after Nicholson’s announcement thanking him for his time in the race — while also trying to convince his supporters to now back them instead.

“This race was better for him being in it, working as hard as he did, and pushing his outsider message about the need to shake up the Madison machine,” Michels said in his statement. “I will work hard to earn the support of his support as I continue to grow our coalition.”

Kleefisch’s statement largely echoed those sentiments, while touting her experience.

“I’d like to thank Kevin Nicholson for the hearty debate and competition to make our state and conservative movement better,” Kleefisch said. “Moving forward, I humbly ask Nicholson’s supporters to join our team. I’ve taken on the Madison swamp before and won, and this fall, I will beat Tony Evers.”

You can read Nicholson’s full statement below.

“When my family and I started this campaign, we knew it would be an uphill battle. I am not part of the insider political class and am a threat to all they hold dear.

We have had many highs over the last six months, and I am proud of what we have built. I’ve traveled our state and heard from thousands of Wisconsinites who believe our society is off track, who want an outsider as their governor, and not someone from the Madison Machine.

I have been encouraged by our supporters, and the old and new friends that my family and I have met on the trail. I love this state and the people in it and truly believe that – though we face great challenges – our best days lay ahead.

Over the past week, I have assessed the state of the primary race and it has become clear to me and my team the only path forward for our campaign is attacking the other candidates in the race on the airwaves and running a very negative campaign. While our team has the capability to do that, that is not something I want to do – nor do I believe that it would be good for the party to do so. This election is too important for our state and our movement.

So today, I am suspending my campaign for Governor. I want to thank all the thousands of people who have donated, volunteered, and supported my campaign. It has been an honor.

I do not plan to make any endorsements in the race before the primary. I will whole heartily support the nominee on August 10th and will work to get Republicans up and down the ballot elected. Our fight is not over, and I will continue to be engaged on the battlefield to elect conservative outsiders in the state of Wisconsin.”