Tommy Thompson out of governor’s race

By: - April 19, 2022 6:00 am
Tommy Thompson

Former Republican governor and UW System Interim President Tommy Thompson. (UW System)

“After much thought and difficult deliberation, I’ve decided against another race for governor,” former Gov. Tommy Thompson said in a one-page statement released Monday. 

Thompson, who was elected governor four times and served fourteen years starting in 1987, was already the longest serving governor in Wisconsin history. He was considering joining a Republican primary field this year that so far includes former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, businessman and former Marine Kevin Nicholson and state Rep. Timothy Ramthun, each competing to challenge incumbent Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in November.

Last month Thompson traveled to Mar-a-Lago to meet with former President Donald Trump as he weighed entering the race.

Despite that visit, many saw his moderate, bipartisan, consensus-building style of governing as an antidote to the Trump brand of Republican politics, and a welcome addition to a field comprised of candidates who appeal mainly to the far right.

“I’m an individual that believes in civic service, and everything I’ve done is, ‘How do I make Wisconsin better?’”” Thompson told Frederica Freyberg on Wisconsin Public Television’s “Here and Now” in March.

“He wanted to overcome the political divide that exists in Wisconsin,” Mordecai Lee, a UW-Milwaukee emeritus professor, told WISN News 12. “That tells us that he’s unhappy with what’s happening to the Republican Party, about quite how Trumpy it’s getting.” 

Thompson, age 80, also served as Secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush and, most recently, as interim president of the UW System.


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Ruth Conniff
Ruth Conniff

Ruth Conniff is Editor-in-chief of the Wisconsin Examiner. She formerly served as Editor-in-chief of The Progressive Magazine where she worked for many years from both Madison and Washington, DC. Shortly after Donald Trump took office she moved with her family to Oaxaca, Mexico, and covered U.S./Mexico relations, the migrant caravan, and Mexico’s efforts to grapple with Trump. Conniff is the author of "Milked: How an American Crisis Brought Together Midwestern Dairy Farmers and Mexican Workers" which won the 2022 Studs and Ida Terkel award from The New Press. She is a frequent guest on MSNBC and has appeared on Good Morning America, Democracy Now!, Wisconsin Public Radio, CNN, Fox News and many other radio and television outlets. She has also written for The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband and three daughters.