WASHINGTON — The race for Senate in Wisconsin is heating up. Republican businessman Eric Hovde spent millions of dollars of his own money in an unsuccessful campaign for Senate 12 years ago. Now, he’s doing so again.

New campaign disclosures showed Hovde loaned his campaign $8 million in the first quarter of this year. He raised about a million dollars from other donors, and has about $5.3 million on hand. 

What You Need To Know

  • New filings with the Federal Elections Commission show Eric Hovde put in millions of dollars of his own money to help fund his campaign against Senator Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.

  • Hovde put $8 million of his own money into his campaign in the first quarter of this year, and he raised about a million dollars from other donors

  • Baldwin’s campaign received $5.4 million in contributions in Q1 2024 

“Candidates who self finance tend to lose. But in this case, he really only has about a month of active fundraising time," said Sarah Bryner, the director of research and strategy at OpenSecrets. "And so that large loan might just be what he needs to become competitive, and then ultimately raise more money. I think we'll learn more in the next set of filings.” 

Hovde grew up in Wisconsin, graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is the CEO of his family’s real estate development company and a billion-dollar holding company that buys and runs banks. While the $8 million might have kick-started his campaign, political analyst Kyle Kondik said Hovde drawing on his own wealth to help finance his campaign could also be fodder for Democrats.

“We know that Democrats are going to run against Hovde’s as someone who's a rich guy who maybe doesn't have the greatest connections to the state,” said Kondik. “And I'd say, probably, the self-funding will be part of that argument.” 

Democrats have called Hovde a carpetbagger who spends more time in California tending to his business interests than in the Badger State. Hovde has continued to reinforce his Wisconsin roots, even jumping into a frozen lake to make a point.

Incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., comfortably won re-election in 2018 by nearly 11 percentage points. She has already raised tens of millions of dollars for this race. During the first quarter of this year, she received $5.4 million in contributions and has more than $10 million dollars in the bank. And her campaign is touting that she received donations from every county in Wisconsin.

“I think that her ability to hold on to money, to attract new donors, to rely on the same sorts of donors who fund mainstream national Democrats nationwide, I think that shows that she is a formidable fundraiser, and that bodes well for her,” Bryner said.  

Follow Charlotte Scott on Facebook and X.