Jun 9, 2023 - Politics & Policy

GOP Rep. Gallagher passes on Wisconsin Senate bid

Rep. Mike Gallagher. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) said Friday he will run for reelection to the House rather than challenge Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) in 2024.

Why it matters: The decision denies Senate Republicans a top recruit in what they see as one of their best opportunities of the cycle to pick up a seat in the closely divided chamber.

  • "It’s obviously disappointing, but it would have been political malpractice not to try to recruit Mike Gallagher," National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) spokesperson Tate Mitchell told Axios in a statement.

What he's saying: Gallagher said in a statement he has a "rare, bipartisan opportunity" as chair of the House's China Select Committee to "help restore American strength, prevent war in the Pacific, and defend our basic freedoms from communist aggression."

  • "Accomplishing this mission and serving Wisconsin’s 8th District deserve my undivided attention," he said. "Therefore, I will not run for the Senate in 2024 and will pursue re-election to the House."
  • His decision was first reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Between the lines: Under GOP conference rules, committee chairs and other members of leadership who run for higher office are required to step down from their positions.

The backdrop: Gallagher, a 39-year-old former Marine Corps intelligence officer with a doctorate in government and international relations, was seen as an "A-list recruit" against Baldwin, Axios' Josh Kraushaar reported in May.

  • Republicans see an opportunity in the state, where President Biden won by less than one percentage point in 2020 and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) won reelection last year despite low favorability ratings.
  • But Baldwin is also seen as an electoral powerhouse, having won reelection in 2018 by 11 percentage points.

The other side: The Wisconsin Democratic Party said in a statement that Gallagher turned down a run "because he knew he couldn't beat Tammy Baldwin."

  • "The Wisconsin GOP is staring down another chaotic, messy, intra-party primary with Sheriff David Clarke leading the pack."

What we're watching: Clarke, a Trump ally and former Milwaukee County sheriff, reacted to the news by tweeting out a poll that shows him leading a potential GOP field, including Gallagher, by 20 points.

  • Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Wisc.) "plans to make a decision in August" on whether he'll run for the seat, his spokesperson Caroline Briscoe told Axios.
  • Eric Hovde, a former hedge fund manager who previously ran for Senate in 2012, said he will decide by December.
  • "We will have a strong candidate in Wisconsin," Mitchell, the NRSC spokesperson, said.

Axios’ Juliegrace Brufke contributed reporting to this story.

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