Will Kevin Nicholson be a candidate for governor of Wisconsin?

Will Kevin Nicholson be a candidate for governor? Don’t be surprised if he says yes.

Now that Republican Ron Johnson’s lingering re-election question is settled and he’s out for a third term in the US Senate, politicians are waiting to see if Kevin Nicholson will enter the gubernatorial race.

Republicans are hearing an announcement that could be days away, all signs suggest he will run.

Nicholson would only tell me that an announcement is coming soon.

But just look at what he told me last September as he waited to make up his mind whether to run for senate or governor. At the time, his conservative No Better Friend advocacy organization was set to launch a statewide $1.5 million television blitz.

Benson: “Is it fair to say Kevin Nicholson’s name will be on the ballot in 2022?”

Nicholson: “Yes, it is.”

Until now, Nicholson had kept his options open until Johnson made a decision.

He certainly looked like a candidate pivoting to the gubernatorial race in a tweet after Johnson decided to run: “After losing 11 of the last 12 statewide elections in Wisconsin, we also need a Conservative candidate who can win a general election in 2022.”

A reference to Republicans losing a bunch of races in 2018, including a Senate seat and a governorship.

Nicholson would change the political landscape in a Republican primary to face Governor Tony Evers.

Evers’ campaign said last week it raised $10 million in 2021 as he seeks a second term, with another $10.5 million in cash.

Former Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch has been running for months and raising funds, $3.3 million according to her campaign. She’s also garnering key party endorsements, like former Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner who backed Kleefisch last week, saying, “She’s been crucial to conservative reforms in the Wisconsin state government.”

But Nicholson, a Bronze Star Marine veteran, is no stranger to primary battles. He lost the Republican U.S. Senate primary to Leah Vukmir in 2018 by six points or 27,000 votes, but won 57 of 72 counties.

Nicholson’s campaign benefited from conservative megadonor Dick Uihlein, who poured millions into the political newcomer’s effort.

Vukmir’s campaign won an early endorsement from the Republican Party of Wisconsin in the primary, but lost by 10 points to Democrat Tammy Baldwin that year.

Former President Donald Trump has encouraged Sean Duffy to run for governor in 2022, but the former Republican congressman from Wausau has decided not to run. Will Trump endorse anyone else? He could have a huge impact in the Aug. 9 primary, less than seven months away.

That still leaves Eric Hovde as another potential gubernatorial candidate. The Madison businessman ran for the Senate in the 2012 primaries, finishing second to Tommy Thompson.

Political newcomer and small business owner Jonathan Wichmann is also a candidate for the Republican primary.

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