Scott Bauer
Covering Wisconsin politics and news
sbauerAPsbauer@ap.org

Former Wisconsin Gov. Thompson backs Michels in GOP race

July 8, 2022 GMT
FILE - Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels speaks during the State GOP Convention on May 21, 2022, in Middleton, Wis.  Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson is endorsing Michels for governor, Friday, July 8, a move that comes after Thompson decided against a run earlier this year.  (Ebony Cox/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP, File)
FILE - Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels speaks during the State GOP Convention on May 21, 2022, in Middleton, Wis.  Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson is endorsing Michels for governor, Friday, July 8, a move that comes after Thompson decided against a run earlier this year.  (Ebony Cox/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP, File)
FILE - Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels speaks during the State GOP Convention on May 21, 2022, in Middleton, Wis.  Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson is endorsing Michels for governor, Friday, July 8, a move that comes after Thompson decided against a run earlier this year.  (Ebony Cox/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP, File)
1 of 2
FILE - Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels speaks during the State GOP Convention on May 21, 2022, in Middleton, Wis. Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson is endorsing Michels for governor, Friday, July 8, a move that comes after Thompson decided against a run earlier this year. (Ebony Cox/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP, File)
1 of 2
FILE - Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels speaks during the State GOP Convention on May 21, 2022, in Middleton, Wis. Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson is endorsing Michels for governor, Friday, July 8, a move that comes after Thompson decided against a run earlier this year. (Ebony Cox/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP, File)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson endorsed construction company co-owner Tim Michels for governor on Friday, after Thompson decided against a run earlier this year.

Michels, who is running as an anti-establishment outsider, also won the backing of former President Donald Trump last month. Thompson, in many ways, is the ultimate political insider with more than 55 years in public life, most recently serving as University of Wisconsin president, a job that won him bipartisan praise.

Thompson, elected four times as Wisconsin governor, said when he announced he wasn’t running in April that he would consider endorsing in the primary because he wants a Republican to win. He said Friday that he believes Michels is the best candidate.

Thompson said in a statement that he has known the Michels family for decades and believes Michels has the experience to “solve tough problems.” The Michels family founded and operates Michels Corp., a Wisconsin-based construction company.

ADVERTISEMENT

Tim Michels knows how to lead large organizations and how-to get-tough jobs done, and that’s what Wisconsin needs,” Thompson said.

Michels said in a statement that he was “happy the governor who reformed welfare and developed the first school choice program in America is now on our team.”

Polls show Michels is in a tight primary race with former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. She served eight years as lieutenant governor under Republican Gov. Scott Walker. He has endorsed Kleefisch.

Minutes after Michels revealed the Thompson endorsement, Kleefisch announced that she was being backed by 50 Republican members of the Legislature. Republicans hold a strong majority in the Senate and Assembly but have been stymied by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and his veto.

A Republican governor would be able to enact a broad conservative agenda with the help of the GOP-led Legislature. Evers has made his ability to block the Republican agenda a cornerstone of his reelection campaign.

In addition to Michels and Kleefisch, state Rep. Timothy Ramthun is running. A fourth candidate, Kevin Nicholson, dropped out this week and said he would not endorse anyone.

The winner of the Aug. 9 primary will take on Evers.