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Senate hopefuls in Wisconsin eye Kohl's seat

Voters across Wisconsin will go to the polls Tuesday Aug. 14 to choose a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate seat held by Herb Kohl for 24 years.

During the primary, voters will choose one of four Republicans -- Eric Hovde, Mark W. Neumann, Tommy G. Thompson or Jeff Fitzgerald -- to run in November against Tammy Baldwin, the lone Democratic candidate.

Here is a brief rundown on the GOP candidates:

Jeff Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald, 45, Horicon, is the speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly and has represented the 39th District since 2000.

Before being elected to the Legislature, Fitzgerald owned and operated two small businesses and spent eight years working at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. He graduated from University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

Fitzgerald was chosen minority leader in 2009 and speaker in 2011.

"We don't have a tax problem in Washington, we have a spending problem," said Fitzgerald. He supports limited government and less spending, offers "battle-tested leadership," helped pass the most conservative legislative agenda in Wisconsin's history and is a proven reformer.

"Government doesn't create wealth, and it certainly can't create prosperity. It is individuals who create wealth, generating prosperity through entrepreneurial action in the private sector," Fitzgerald said. "This is just a simple, proven fact, but too few in Washington get it."

Fitzgerald's campaign website is

Eric Hovde

Hovde, 46, Madison, is CEO for Hovde Properties LLC. He calls himself "a conservative and free market conservative."

Hovde has never run for office before, but says he has spent 25 years in the private sector building and turning around companies and creating hundreds of jobs. He says his private sector experience has taught him the value of balancing a budget and making payroll because if a business doesn't live within its means, it fails.

"After spending more than two decades in the private sector building businesses and putting people to work, I fully understand that the government cannot create jobs -- only the private sector can," Hovde said. "What the government can and should do is promote pro-growth policies that give job creators the confidence and certainty they need to start hiring again, and Washington needs more folks from the private sector who understand these principles."

Hovde's campaign website is

Mark Neumann

Neumann, 58, Nashotah, served in Congress from 1995-1999 and has owned and operated a construction business for 25 years.

Neumann graduated from UW-Whitewater before moving to River Falls to earn a master of science in supervision and instructional leadership. He taught in River Falls as a high school math teacher.

He says that, while in Congress, he was one of the principle architects of the 1998 balanced budget -- the first balanced budget in decades.

Neumann calls the country's $15 trillion debt "the greatest moral challenge America faces" and offers a five-year plan he says will balance the budget.

The plan includes a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, the repeal of "Obamacare," making the Bush-era tax cuts permanent, eliminating or cutting 150 government programs, $1.4 trillion in spending cuts and $368 billion in tax-cut offsets from subsidies.

Neumann was a candidate for governor of Wisconsin in 2010. His website is

Tommy Thompson

Thompson, 70, Madison, was Wisconsin governor for four terms, from 1987 to 2001. Prior to that, he served in the Assembly.

He was secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush. Thompson announced his candidacy for president in April 2007, but dropped out four months later.

"There is no greater example of government overreach and unrestrained liberalism than Obamcare, the president's signature legislative initiative," Thompson said. "It is so deeply flawed and such a clear and present threat to our economic stability that there is no way to fix it; it must be repealed entirely and replaced with market-based solutions that work."

The theme of Thompson's campaign is "Restore America," and he has announced several policy initiatives.

Those include tackling the nation's debt through entitlement and budget reform, boosting the economy through tax simplification and reduction and enacting "a pro-growth energy" policy.

Thompson's campaign website is

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.