Once likely GOP candidate McCoshen will not run for governor

By: - September 15, 2021 8:46 am

Bill McCoshen via Twitter

After spending more than a year traveling around Wisconsin, meeting with businesses and the public as he appeared to lay the groundwork for a campaign to run for governor, lobbyist Bill McCoshen announced Wednesday that he has decided to opt out.

He announced earlier in the week that he was selling his consulting business of nearly 30 years to legal and public relations firm Michael Best Strategies, sparking speculation that it was a first step in clearing the deck to run for the Republican nomination. His announcement on Twitter said the opposite.

“My family and I have made a decision not to seek the governorship in 2022. Here’s why and what’s next,” he tweeted, attaching his statement.

One of the elements in his long explanation that may draw the most attention was this:

“History says the GOP needed a competitive primary to beat an incumbent Democrat governor in 2022.”

McCoshen is considered a standard bearer of the more traditional conservative wing of the Republican party, while Kleefisch is embracing the far-right and Donald Trump supporters in her agenda. It would be difficult to interpret that in any way other than his encouraging other Republicans to run in the GOP primary against former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who announced her candidacy last week.

“It has happened twice in my lifetime,” McCoshen continued in his statement. “The last time was 1986 when Tommy Thompson beat Tony Earl. Tommy won a five way primary before going on to win four-year terms and become the longest serving governor in Wisconsin history. The other time was 1978 when upstart Lee Dreyfus defeated party endorsed Bob Kasten in the GOP primary before defeating interim Gov. Marty Schreiber.”

McCoshen was Thompson’s communications director and later campaign manager in his races for governor. He said that he would be joining Michael Best and remain involved in developing conservative public policy through Common Sense Wisconsin, a nonprofit 501c4 corporation.

His approach of using a nonprofit organization to advocate for public policy, while also using it to travel the state in what appears to be campaigning — a tactic Kleefisch also used — may be the new GOP model for running. Kleefisch’s The 1848 Project is the subject of an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) complaint from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin that is pending.


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Melanie Conklin
Melanie Conklin

Melanie Conklin was the Wisconsin Examiner's founding Deputy Editor, serving from its launch July 1, 2019, until Feb. 1, 2022. She is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications before returning to journalism at the Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.