Johnson gets GOP endorsement for U.S. Senate, Leinenkugel withdraws from raceWisconsin News
- Ron Johnson got the state Republican Party’s endorsement yesterday against U.S. Senate Democrat Russ Feingold. Delegates at the GOP convention in Milwaukee endorsed the Oshkosh businessman on the second ballot, after Dick Leinenkugel shocked the gathering and withdrew from the race.
MILWAUKEE - Ron Johnson got the state Republican Party’s endorsement yesterday against U.S. Senate Democrat Russ Feingold. Delegates at the GOP convention in Milwaukee endorsed the Oshkosh businessman on the second ballot, after Dick Leinenkugel shocked the gathering and withdrew from the race.
Leinenkugel, the former state Commerce Secretary whose campaign got heavy criticism from his ties to the Democratic Doyle administration, told delegates he was endorsing Johnson. Leinenkugel’s campaign later said it was the right thing to do, and a divisive primary would only help Feingold get re-elected in November. Johnson said Leinenkugel's withdrawal was a total surprise – and the two campaigns did not collaborate on it.
Just hours before withdrawing from the race, Leinenkugel told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel he was wrongly portrayed as a moderate by a vocal minority in the GOP. He said Republicans need to widen their base, and present more ideas to solve problems instead of just saying no to Democratic legislation. Leinenkugel cited a lack of diversity among the delegates at the GOP convention in Milwaukee. He also blamed Milwaukee conservative talk radio hosts for creating an atmosphere of quote, “hatred, not anger” – saying anger can be channeled into good while hatred leads to nothing. The radio hosts harped on Leinenkugel’s 19 months as state Commerce Secretary under Democratic Governor Jim Doyle. But he said the governor needed a solid, conservative business leader to straighten out the agency. And as he was leaving the beer industry, he thought it was good way to make a transition into the public sector. Leinenkugel also said “reasonable people” understand why a conservative businessman would go to work for government, even with Democrats running it. During his Journal-Sentinel interview yesterday morning, Leinenkugel gave no hint he would pull out of the Senate race just hours later, and endorse an unknown in Johnson. In fact, he gave a scenario in which the other three would split their votes and Leinenkugel would win the primary.
Johnson got just under 64-percent of the final convention vote. Candidates needed 60-percent to win an endorsement. Leinenkugel’s withdrawal leaves three Republicans in the Senate race. Madison developer Terrence Wall got 18-percent of the convention’s support. Watertown businessman Dave Westlake, did not get enough votes in the first ballot to be considered in the final ballot.
Also, the delegates failed to endorse a candidate for lieutenant governor among four choices -- Assembly Republican Brett Davis, Superior Mayor Dave Ross, Ben Collins, and Rebecca Kleefisch. Scott Walker got 91-percent of the delegates' support for governor. That was after his main primary opponent, Mark Neumann, asked that they not endorse him – saying he'd rather get the backing of the people in September.