By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher announced Friday that he won’t run for U.S. Senate in 2024 against Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, leaving an open GOP field with no declared candidates in the battleground state.
Gallagher was the highest profile Republican said to be considering a run against Baldwin, who is seeking a third term after an 11-point win in 2018. Baldwin is viewed as a formidable opponent due to her strong showing six years ago, her high profile across the state and her ability to raise money.
Democrats, including Baldwin, are defending 23 seats in the U.S. Senate in 2024, including two held by independents who caucus with Democrats. That’s compared with just 10 seats that Republicans hope to keep in their column.
Wisconsin’s other senator, Republican Ron Johnson, narrowly won reelection to a third term in November. Baldwin will be on the ballot in a presidential year in a state where four of the past six presidential elections have been decided by less than a percentage point.
Gallagher, in a statement, said that his position chairing a House committee on China gives him a “rare, bipartisan opportunity” in Congress to “help restore American strength, prevent war in the Pacific, and defend our basic freedoms from communist aggression.”
Gallagher, a fierce critic of Beijing, said his work on the China committee serving in Congress will be his focus. He said he will seek a fifth term representing northeast Wisconsin next year.
The announcement comes the day before Baldwin and Wisconsin Democrats were gathering in Green Bay for their state convention. Republicans are meeting starting June 16 in La Crosse.
Several other Republicans are considering taking on Baldwin, but none have officially announced.
Gallagher’s decision to opt out of the race leave Republicans “staring down another chaotic, messy, intra-party primary,” said Wisconsin Democratic Party spokesperson Arik Wolk.
U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany, representing northern Wisconsin in Congress since winning a special election in May 2020, has been traveling the state meeting with Republicans ahead of a potential Senate run.
Tiffany is a staunch backer of former President Donald Trump. Tiffany, as a member of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, voted not to certify election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania, the only two states where objections were taken. Tiffany also signed on to a Republican lawsuit filed in Texas with the U.S. Supreme Court that would have thrown out Wisconsin’s presidential votes and instead had the election decided by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature.
Others considering a Senate run are Madison businessman Eric Hovde, who lost in a Republican primary for Senate in 2018, Franklin businessman Scott Mayer and former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, a staunch Trump supporter who backed false claims of fraud after the 2020 election.
Clarke tweeted Friday in response to Gallagher’s news that none of the Republicans considering a run “energizes or excites the base voter like I do.”