Fitz

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Monday that he won't run for U.S. Senate in 2018.

SCOTT BAUER, ASSOCIATED PRESS

State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has ruled out running for U.S. Senate in 2018, throwing his support to his Republican colleague, state Sen. Leah Vukmir, who he said is best positioned to oust the Democratic incumbent, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Fitzgerald, a Juneau Republican who has led the state Senate GOP since 2011, had publicly weighed whether to jump into the race. But Monday he released a statement saying he won’t do so and endorsed Vukmir, R-Brookfield.

Kevin Nicholson, a Delafield businessman and U.S. Marine Corps veteran, is the other announced Republican candidate. Madison businessman Eric Hovde also is considering a run.

Fitzgerald’s statement said he backs Vukmir because she’s an “actual conservative” who “will listen to the grass roots.”

“She is an exceptional leader, one of the best Wisconsin has to offer, so I am choosing not to run for the U.S. Senate knowing we are in great hands,” Fitzgerald said.

Nicholson is a former president of the College Democrats of America who spoke in favor of Al Gore at the 2000 Democratic National Convention. Since entering the race, Nicholson cast his past Democratic views as a product of his youth and of family members who were Democrats, saying his adult experiences molded him into a conservative.

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Fitzgerald is the second potential Republican candidate in recent weeks to rule out a run; the other was State Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield.

Baldwin, D-Madison, will be vying for a second term in the U.S. Senate. Her re-election bid and the Wisconsin governor’s race will be the marquee statewide races on the ballot in 2018.

Republicans view the race as a chance to deal another blow to Wisconsin’s beleaguered Democrats, as Baldwin is the highest-profile statewide Democrat in elected office.

“It’s time to turn Wisconsin entirely red, and Leah is the candidate that will help us achieve that goal,” Fitzgerald said.

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