Likely GOP nominee to face Senator Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, Kevin Nicholson, joined me this morning. Fascinating story. Formidable candidate:
HH: 2018 is already underway. The elections of 2018 are going to decide whether or not the GOP agenda moves forward in Congress, the Trump agenda gets implemented across the United States. There are so many Democrats who are vulnerable, one of them in Wisconsin, Heidi Heitkamp, has now drawn a challenger, Kevin Nicholson, which are making, he is making a lot of heads turn. He joins me now. Kevin Nicholson, good morning, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
KN: Good morning, Hugh, how are you doing? I just quick correction, it’s Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin.
HH: Tammy Baldwin. I said Heidi Heitkamp, is North Dakota. I’m sorry, Tammy Baldwin.
KN: No, they all blend together after a while.
HH: They did. They’re all up there in the north somewhere.
HH: www.nicholsonforSenate.com, and on Twitter, @KevinMNicholson. Let’s just give you two minutes. Tell us your story, Kevin.
KN: Sure, happy to. So Hugh, I was born in the Milwaukee area and grew up there, and one quick note about myself that I think will be of interest to you and your listeners, was that when I headed off to college in the early, or late 90s and early 2000s, I was actually a Democrat. I was elected national president of the college Democrats in 1999. I came from a left of center family, and my grandfather was my biggest political influence. And he was an old school FDR Democrat who said, who told me all the great things about Roosevelt, and complained about Ronald Reagan. And so I love my grandfather dearly. I had to actually go off into politics to figure out I had a different vision, and the Democratic Party really didn’t represent what he thought it did, either. So I served in that role in, actually, the Democratic National Committee from 1999 to 2000, and saw a lot of things I didn’t like, chief amongst them is I saw the inception of identity politics. And I saw people within the DNC pitted against each other on the basis of the color of their skin, gender, or whatever could be used to separate them. And so I was only 20-21 years old, but I knew enough to know that that didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I also told people, I told people I was going to join the Marine Corps. They looked at me like I was crazy. So between those two things, I had a pretty good sense I was not amongst my crowd. But I left that term not, you know, not making a big political statement or burning bridges with family or friends, but went off and I lived a different life. And from Washington, I actually headed back to school. I ran the school newspaper for a year. My first introduction to business, where it was 150 staff and a multimillion dollar budget, and the rest of my story is just that. It’s being introduced to reality, figuring out the way the world really works. So from the newspaper, I headed out to Wyoming for a while where I worked as a cowboy, just about 7,000 feet of elevation in the middle of nowhere. And I tell you, nothing will toughen you up like that kind of work, and finding out how difficult it is to make a buck in agriculture. From there, I came back to school, I graduated, I got married in 2004, and then I joined the Marine Corps, and served until ’09. I fought in Iraq in ’07, and I fought in Afghanistan in ’08 and ’09. I was part of the surge in al Anbar, and I saw things go from bad to good. And I heard the Democrat presidential candidates running around back home when I was in al Anbar lying about the progress we had made. Whether it was Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or whomever, they were out there undercutting the progress that we had made as part of the surge. So I was livid, and any kind of tangential tie between me and the Democratic Party was done as I came back in 2007 and ’08, before heading back to Afghanistan in 2008 and ’09 where I was down south near Kandahar and led what was called the counter IED team, basically a quick reaction force that dealt with the IED threat. So I did that. I subsequently saw Barack Obama and Tammy Baldwin as well, too, undercut the progress we had made in both of those countries, as Barack Obama prematurely pulled out of Iraq. And then in 2008, or excuse me, 2010, give his famous speech at West Point in which he announced a small troop uptick in Afghanistan, then laid out the entire plan for a troop drawdown for the entire world to see. As you know, Hugh, we’re hearing a lot about leaks in Washington today, but there’s been no more consequential leak in my lifetime than President Obama laying out our plans for our enemies to see. So that certainly encouraged our enemy to keep fighting us and to keep killing Americans. I got out of Afghanistan, and out of the Marine Corps in 2009, headed to grad school and did a joint degree at Harvard and Dartmouth. I always tell people I was looking for the greatest cultural chasm on Earth, and I think I found it between Afghanistan and Harvard, for better or worse.
KN: And I also found a great place to test the assumptions of experts to find out what’s missing. I was at those schools when the people who wrote Obamacare were rolling through and saying all the great thing they created, and I was one of the few students raising my hand and saying hey, you can’t coopt insurance companies, mandate certain coverages in a fake market and expect you’re not going to blow out premiums, which of course they did. And we’re still dealing with that problem. But incredible education in seeing that just because someone has a credential, doesn’t mean they know what they’re talking about.
HH: Now Kevin, let me pause you for a second here. You’re being incredibly humble. You have not mentioned you were the recipient of the Bronze Star, and that you led over a hundred combat missions in Iraq, the Navy Achievement Medal as well.
HH: And I want people to understand your Marine Corps service a little bit more, because a lot of Marines, my brother-in-law is going down to Quantico for the reunion of his 1969 artillery unit, and he’s a retired lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps. My father-in-law was a colonel in the Marine Corps. They all want to know what unit, that sort of stuff, your MOS. Tell people that stuff for the Marines who are listening to this show which are in great number.
KN: Sure, absolutely. So I was a 1302. I was a combat engineer officer in the Marine Corps. I was in what’s called division side, which means my units in the Marine Corps dealt with demolition, explosives and like light expedient construction, not the kind of engineer you’d want to build your house, but the kind of engineer that actually engineers the battlefield. And that was my MOS in the Marine Corps. And my deployment to Iraq, I led a platoon of Marines, and we did a pretty traditional combat engineer mission where we were finding and destroying enemy weapons caches and patrolling, and doing some light expedient…
HH: Which division were you in? Were you 1st Marine Division?
HH: 2nd Marine Division.
KN: 2nd combat engineer battalion for my entire time in the Corps, yeah.
HH: And OCS, what class did you come through at OCS?
KN: I was in the fall of 2004, was the class, yeah.
HH: And so you joined up after the war had turned to whatever we want to call it, and you knew what you were getting into, and you went anyway. I thank you for doing that. I salute you for doing that.
KN: Thank you.
HH: Now my grandfather was an FDR Democrat. He lived to be 101. He was employed during the Depression as a fireman, so I have to live to 101 to cancel out all the votes he cast for Democrats. What did you do after finishing Harvard and Dartmouth in the private sector? What do you know, you obviously know about the military, you’re a combat veteran. We need more of those. Tammy Baldwin, God love her, is not going to be able to deal with you when you talk about the war on terrorism. But what about your economic and business chops?
KN: Yeah, so well a couple of things. It starts in the school where I studied the public pension crisis pretty closely. And that’s where I really added kind of the intellectual foundation of conservatism. I was conservative coming into graduate school, but this is where I figured out the way the numbers work and exactly how scary the story is if we don’t deal with the problem quickly. So incredible education in that respect, published a bunch of stuff on the public pension crisis in the United States. From there, I went on to work in McKenzie for about four years, and I was serving clients all across the country in different industries. You pick the industry, I was working in it and helping companies essentially grow and deal with their toughest problems, because when you hire McKenzie, you want them to come in and deal with things that you need the most help on. So you’re always thrown into the toughest problems, and you have to deal with them. And so I think that probably is the biggest education there in that you learn in the private sector you don’t deal with the issue at hand quickly, the company can go under and people can lose their jobs. So there is no…
HH: Now you’ll be back a lot, but I want people to know do you have the money to run? And what are you going to do about, you’re pro-choice, and the Democrats are going to try and kill you on this? You know, Ronald Reagan changed on this as well, but let’s talk about the money, and where you are in a pro-life state on the pro-choice issue when you were a young Democrat.
KN: Of course. Yeah, so in terms of the money, you know, we’ve been, I’ve been declared for a little over a week now coming to two weeks, I think, and we’re at about $250,000 committed or raised so far, so we’re doing pretty well.
KN: We also think we’ll have some good support here in the near future in terms of endorsements. As well, too, I, you know, I have supporters out there who have set up a superPAC, which is not connected to my campaign, and is completely independent, but it’s very well-funded. And from what I read in the newspapers, it’s got at least a couple million bucks in it, which is great, and a great tailwind as we get this going. But we still have to raise money within the campaign itself, too, in order to be competitive, and we feel like we will definitely do that. In terms of the issue of life, which I’m glad you highlighted and I’m happy to talk about it, when I was, I don’t know, 21 or 22 and I spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2000 when they nominated Gore, I read a speech in which I talked a woman’s right to choose. And probably like a fair amount of 21 or 22 year old guys, I hadn’t thought about this issue a whole lot in my life, hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about it. And as a result, when somebody put a piece of paper in front of me, I was willing to read it. And you know what? I take 100% of the blame and responsibility for that, because at 21 or 22, I supervised corporals in Afghanistan and Iraq that were taking responsibility for human life. So that’s on me. Now subsequent to that time in my life, I’ve had three kids. I’ve fought in wars where I’ve seen innocent life wasted repeatedly, and I will tell you nothing will crystallize to you the importance of life like seeing that kind of loss, or having people who love so dearly so close to you. And that’s what’s been my story. And I am firmly pro-life as a result, and it’s due to my experience. And I wouldn’t, you know, I think we all could wish that we would wake up and realize things earlier in life, and it took me the time it did, and it took the experience it did, but I did figure it out.
HH: Kevin Nicholson, come back early and often. I think Tammy Baldwin is in for the fight of her life, and I think Wisconsin is ready to support you. You can support him at www.NicholsonForSenate.com. Follow him on Twitter, @KevinMNicholson. He’ll be back early and often on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
End of interview.