America Is so Polarized That This Republican Senate Candidate’s Parents Donated to His Democratic Rival

Kevin Nicholson’s parents have maxed out their donations to Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Wisconsin Republican Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson speaks with reporters in Madison, Wis.Scott Bauer/AP

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

Kevin Nicholson, a Republican challenging Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), has raised over $1.2 million for his 2018 campaign to unseat the nation’s first openly gay senator. But his Democratic rival has raised almost eight times that amount in the last two years—with the help of Nicholson’s own parents.

CNN reported on Tuesday that Michael and Donna Nicholson each donated $2,700—the maximum allowed under federal rules—to Baldwin’s primary campaign in December 2017.

The move might stem less from parental indifference than party loyalty: Nicholson’s parents are longtime Democrats who have given to numerous Democratic candidates over the years. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that, since Nicholson entered the race in July 2017, his mother has made 14 donations to Democrats, including Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) and Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Al Franken (D.-Minn.).

Nicholson himself had strong Democratic ties before he decided to run as a Republican. Politico reported that while he was a student at the University of Minnesota, Nicholson served as president of College Democrats of America, a post that granted him a speaking slot at the 2000 Democratic convention. Nicholson attributes his ideological shift to his experiences as a student, Marine, Christian, and family man. “I start every speech talking about how I was a Democrat,” he told Politico in September, “and what I saw and what I was involved in, and how it made me a conservative.” The explanation hasn’t worked for some GOP politicians, such as former Trump Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who has called Nicholson’s conversion “too contrived.”

Nicholson told CNN that his parents’ donations come as no surprise. “My parents have a different worldview than I do, and it is not surprising that they would support a candidate like Tammy Baldwin who shares their perspective,” he said.

Nicholson is facing off against state senator Leah Vukmir in the GOP primary. Nicholson has raised roughly twice as much money as his challenger, according to recent FEC filings. The elder Nicholsons will have another opportunity to throw money Baldwin’s way during the general election—should their son secure the GOP bid, that move might hit even closer to home.

Dear Reader,

This feels like the most important fundraising drive since I've been CEO of Mother Jones, with staggeringly high stakes and so much uncertainty. In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," I try to unpack the reality we all face and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support Mother Jones’ nonprofit journalism: We need to raise $400,000 to help cover the vital reporting projects we have planned, and right now is no time to pull back.

Monika Bauerlein, CEO, Mother Jones

Dear Reader,

This feels like the most important fundraising drive since I've been CEO of Mother Jones, with staggeringly high stakes and so much uncertainty. In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," I try to unpack the reality we all face and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support Mother Jones’ nonprofit journalism: We need to raise $400,000 to help cover the vital reporting projects we have planned, and right now is no time to pull back.

Monika Bauerlein, CEO, Mother Jones

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate