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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