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Wisconsin Senate candidates present stark contrast on gun safety and reproductive rights

The Republicans challenging Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin favor abortion bans and oppose gun safety laws.

By Josh Israel - September 27, 2023
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Tammy Baldwin
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., arrives for President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy's meeting with U.S. Senators in the Capitol on Thursday, September 21, 2023. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Republicans hoping to regain control of the narrowly divided U.S. Senate have targeted Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin in the 2024 elections. While the GOP field remains in flux, the candidates who have expressed interest in running differ sharply from the incumbent on policies relating to gun violence, reproductive rights, and tax rates for the wealthiest Americans.

The Cook Political Report lists the Wisconsin race as competitive and leaning Democratic.

Earlier this year, Republican leaders attempted to recruit Rep. Mike Gallagher to run, releasing a May poll showing him trailing Baldwin by just a point. But Gallagher instead opted to run for reelection, as did the rest of the state’s Republican congressional delegation. No major polling of the race has been released since.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin

During her seven terms in the U.S. House and two in the Senate, Baldwin has supported abortion rights, consistently earning 100% scores from Reproductive Freedom for All (formerly NARAL Pro-Choice America) and Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

She is the lead sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2023, which would restore the legal protections of reproductive rights previously guaranteed by Roe v. Wade for nearly 50 years.

Baldwin has backed legislation to expand federal background checks for gun purchasers, to ban military-style assault weapons, and to temporarily disarm people deemed in court to be an immediate danger to themselves or others.

She also opposed President Donald Trump’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which slashed tax rates for wealthy individuals and large corporations, calling it “largely a tax giveaway to the wealthiest few and powerful corporations, while millions of middle-class families would get a tax hike.”

The Republicans

Former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke has said he is considering running against Baldwin. Clarke has endorsed abortion bans, likening the procedure to slavery, and has opposed gun safety legislation. After House Democrats passed a bill in 2022 prohibiting the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons, Clarke tweeted: “Oh bag it Democrats. They claim gun control will save lives. SO WILL A BAN ON ABORTION. That kills more lives than guns do.” Clarke backed Trump’s 2017 tax cuts.

Unsuccessful 2012 Senate candidate and real estate developer Eric Hovde, who reportedly spends much of his time at his multimillion-dollar home in Laguna Beach, California, has reportedly said he’s considering a Senate run. In his prior race, he said on his campaign site, “We must defend and protect all human life from conception to natural death,” and, “I fully support the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms, without exception.” He has repeatedly tweeted his support for lower corporate and individual tax rates.

Trempealeau County Board Supervisor Stacey Klein announced her candidacy on Sept.13. Her campaign Facebook page announced her Sept. 26 appearance at a local Republican Party event that featured a raffle for a semi-automatic gun. Klein told the American Independent Foundation in an email: “I’m pro-life and believe we should approach certain situations with compassion and humanity. I also believe this issue should be decided by each state but would be willing to discuss if others felt certain exceptions would provide an area for compromise that would ultimately save innocent lives.” She said that she supports the Second Amendment and, asked about the Trump tax cuts, said, “Our focus needs to be reducing and prioritizing the federal spending and ensuring reduced taxes through the future.”

Businessman Scott Mayer has said he is considering entering the race. “I’m absolutely pro-life,” he told NBC News in April, adding that he would probably support some exceptions to Wisconsin’s abortion ban. He told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in July that he was not sure if he supported gun safety legislation, saying, “I cringe, I hate what’s happening, but I don’t have a good answer as to how to fix it.” Mayer did not respond to an American Independent Foundation inquiry about his positions.

University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point College Republicans chair Rejani Raveendran announced her candidacy in August. In an email, the 40-year-old Raveendran told the American Independent Foundation:

I do not support any gun restrictions. I uphold the Second Amendment. I am Pro-Life and I am a Constitutionalist. I respect the Rule of Law. Right now the Supreme Court has decided to send the abortion issue back to the States, thus it is a State issue. But if the Supreme Court will ever change their stand and the abortion issue comes back to the federal level, then I will stand for life. I will support the 2017 Trump tax cut permanent for the betterment of our economy. It will bring a more simpler and fairer tax system. It will strengthen our economy and get rid of unnecessarily complex tax code.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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