In December, five months after U.S. Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson joined the Republican primary field in Wisconsin, his parents donated $2,700 each (the max amount allowed by the FEC) to possible Democratic opponent, incumbent Tammy Baldwin.
Whether Nicholson was aware of his parents’ donations by the time they were revealed in a February 5 FEC filing from Baldwin’s campaign is not known. However, it likely wasn’t too surprising given Nicholson’s upbringing.
During an interview with ABC affiliate WISN in August, the candidate explained how his political views were shaped by his Democratic parents and grandfather, and how he himself shifted from Democrat to Republican:
I was raised in a family that was left of center. My biggest political influence growing up was my grandfather. He was an FDR Democrat, lifelong construction worker, and one of my personal heroes. When we would walk from McCarty park to the old Boy Blue on Lincoln avenue, we’d talk about FDR the whole way there, and [on] the way back, he’d complain about Ronald Reagan. So, that’s what I knew of politics growing up, and that’s what I knew going to college.
When I went to college, I threw myself into politics because I knew it was important — that had been impressed upon me as a young person, and I had to find out myself that ... the vision of the Democratic Party was not my vision for the future.
So, a couple things that I saw that really stood out to me. First of which, I saw the inception of identity politics within the DNC. I saw people separated by their race, by male and female, pitted against each other for resources. I didn’t like it. I was 21 or 22 ... I knew this didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I also knew that when I talked about joining the Marine Corps, which I had always planned to do, people looked at me like I was a little bit crazy. And it was enough that I knew this probably wasn’t my crowd. When my term ended, I didn’t burn relationships, and make some big political statement, but I did move in a different direction. The rest of my life went a very different way than your typical former president of the college Democrats.
I went back to school; I ran a school newspaper for a year. My first business experience [in] Minnesota was a multi-million dollar budget and 150 staff people, so I learned a little bit about business and finance. From there, I headed out to Wyoming where I worked as a cowboy — toughened me up quite a bit before I came back. Got married and joined the the Marine Corps in 2004 and served till ‘09.
So, my life shaped me. Those are the experiences that made me a conservative.
Nicholson provided a statement to CNN regarding his parents’ donations to Baldwin in which he said:
My parents have a different worldview than I do, and it is not surprising that they would support a candidate like Tammy Baldwin who shares their perspective.
... I'm a conservative today not because I was born one, but because of the experience I earned as a Marine in combat, my experience as a husband and father, my choice to be a Christian, the schools I chose to attend and the decision to pursue the career that I have. Regardless of who may disagree with my life decisions, I would not trade these experiences for anything, and they will always guide my views as Wisconsin's next U.S. Senator.
Nicholson’s parents have thus far remained silent on the matter.