America Is so Polarized That This Republican Senate Candidate’s Parents Donated to His Democratic Rival

Kevin Nicholson’s parents have maxed out their donations to Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Wisconsin Republican Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson speaks with reporters in Madison, Wis.Scott Bauer/AP

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Kevin Nicholson, a Republican challenging Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), has raised over $1.2 million for his 2018 campaign to unseat the nation’s first openly gay senator. But his Democratic rival has raised almost eight times that amount in the last two years—with the help of Nicholson’s own parents.

CNN reported on Tuesday that Michael and Donna Nicholson each donated $2,700—the maximum allowed under federal rules—to Baldwin’s primary campaign in December 2017.

The move might stem less from parental indifference than party loyalty: Nicholson’s parents are longtime Democrats who have given to numerous Democratic candidates over the years. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that, since Nicholson entered the race in July 2017, his mother has made 14 donations to Democrats, including Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) and Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Al Franken (D.-Minn.).

Nicholson himself had strong Democratic ties before he decided to run as a Republican. Politico reported that while he was a student at the University of Minnesota, Nicholson served as president of College Democrats of America, a post that granted him a speaking slot at the 2000 Democratic convention. Nicholson attributes his ideological shift to his experiences as a student, Marine, Christian, and family man. “I start every speech talking about how I was a Democrat,” he told Politico in September, “and what I saw and what I was involved in, and how it made me a conservative.” The explanation hasn’t worked for some GOP politicians, such as former Trump Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who has called Nicholson’s conversion “too contrived.”

Nicholson told CNN that his parents’ donations come as no surprise. “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,” he said.

Nicholson is facing off against state senator Leah Vukmir in the GOP primary. Nicholson has raised roughly twice as much money as his challenger, according to recent FEC filings. The elder Nicholsons will have another opportunity to throw money Baldwin’s way during the general election—should their son secure the GOP bid, that move might hit even closer to home.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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