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A Wisconsin candidate for U.S. Senate made an appearance in Chippewa Falls Tuesday, joining some well-known local faces at Leinie Lodge.

Kevin Nicholson — one of several Republicans challenging Democratic incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin for her seat — met veterans who were also making a stop in Chippewa Falls.

Those veterans, headed up by former state Sen. Dave Zien, were on the second day of a weeklong state tour celebrating the accomplishments of veterans and what Zien calls “homefront heroes,” or supporters of the military.

Many of those veterans, including Zien himself, support Nicholson’s bid for U.S. Senate; another was more skeptical, but said he looked forward to hearing what Nicholson had to say.

“I’ve listened to what he’s said. It might take a lot more to change me,” said Bill Boyea of Cadott, a Democrat. “I’ve worked union all my life, belonged to the union. (But) as long as you’re doing stuff for the vets, I can get behind that.”

Nicholson’s appearance comes after his opponent, state Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, won an endorsement of the Republican Party of Wisconsin on Saturday. Vukmir won with the support of 73 percent of delegates at the convention.

If both candidates stay in the race, Vukmir and Nicholson will face off for the GOP nomination in a partisan primary Aug. 14. The winner will run against Baldwin in November.

However, Nicholson said losing the state GOP’s endorsement does not worry him, and claimed current polls projected he would win the primary by 30 points.

“We never really paid much mind to that endorsement process,” Nicholson said Tuesday. “We went because there were voters there.”

Zien said he was a friend of Vukmir, but that he believes Nicholson can pull off an upset similar to Trump’s in Wisconsin.

“In the (2016) election cycle, not one of 72 (Wisconsin) county chairmen endorsed (Trump),” Zien said. “And he won the presidency … I predict the same is going to happen with Kevin.”

Zien also spoke highly of Nicholson’s position on national defense and security — Nicholson has said he supports strengthening the military and believes national debt is the greatest threat to national security.

Tuesday, Nicholson singled out Baldwin’s involvement with veteran care in Wisconsin. He called for veterans having better access to services outside the VA system.

“I think you still need to keep regionalized specialty centers, where veterans can see treatment for brain injuries, PTSD injuries as well as burn injuries,” Nicholson said, but he also believes the health care system should adapt so veterans can access non-VA doctors. “I think that’s good for them also good for taxpayers in the long term.”

Nicholson also said he believes President Donald J. Trump’s recent tariffs on steel and aluminum are ultimately aimed at “a world without tariffs.”

“Right now, our agriculture exporters … are exporting oftentimes to countries that either subsidize their own agriculture and manufacturing, or put tariffs on inbound American products,” Nicholson said. “That is unacceptable.

“What I think the president is doing is using the threat of tariffs to eliminate tariffs elsewhere.”

Nicholson, a first-time political candidate, is a Delafield businessman, former Democrat and Marine veteran.

Zien and other veterans are celebrating Veterans and Home Front Heroes Appreciation Week with a tour of over 50 locations in the Chippewa Valley. Along the way, they are inviting political candidates to meet-and-greets, and unveiling 27 signs dedicated to veterans and homefront heroes.

Tour stops and updates can be found at https://www.facebook.com/Wheels-of-Liberty-645681015545177/. Another tour will begin Oct. 29 and end Nov. 3, 2018.

Zien said it’s the tour’s second year, and he hopes more candidates appear along the tour.

“We’ve had a wonderful time today,” he said. “Nicholson is paving the way for other candidates and challengers to be here.”

Wisconsin State Journal reporter Mark Sommerhauser contributed to this report.

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Chippewa Herald reporter

Sarah Seifert reports for the Chippewa Herald. Contact her with tips or story ideas at 715-738-1608 or at sarah.seifert@lee.net.

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