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Republican Kevin Nicholson has challenged his rival, state Sen. Leah Vukmir, to six debates in the state’s GOP primary for U.S. Senate.

Vukmir, R-Brookfield, said she would participate in a March 28 debate with Nicholson in the Milwaukee area. She didn’t say if she would take up his offer for five more debates.

Vukmir spokesman Jess Ward said Vukmir looks forward to debating Nicholson. Ward also suggested Vukmir, assistant majority leader of the state Senate, welcomes the contrast with Nicholson, a Delafield businessman and Iraq War veteran.

“The more Wisconsinites hear from Kevin and his past, present and future stances on issues or who supports him, the weirder it gets,” Ward said.

Nicholson has not held elected office but previously served as national College Democrats president before undergoing what he has described as a political conversion influenced by his life experiences.

Nicholson said he wants six debates in all corners of the state in March and April.

“With less than nine months before Election Day, it’s time to publicly allow voters the chance to hear more from (Vukmir) and myself about our positions on issues,” Nicholson said. “Republicans throughout Wisconsin are excited about the very real opportunity we have to defeat Tammy Baldwin this November — but it’s going to require a nominee who is up to the challenge.”

Vukmir and Nicholson are seeking the GOP nod to oppose Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, of Madison, in November. Madison businessman Eric Hovde has said he may also join the Republican fray.

In 2012, the last competitive Republican U.S. Senate primary in Wisconsin, two debates were held — one in July and one in August.

So far in this race, no independent public polls have been released.

Nicholson is ahead in fundraising, having collected, as of the most recent Federal Election Commission filings, about $1.2 million, roughly double what Vukmir raised.

Nicholson — until recently, a political unknown — also has benefited from outside groups that have spent millions to air TV ads on his behalf.

Baldwin, meanwhile, released her first TV ads of the campaign Tuesday, set to begin airing Wednesday in the Milwaukee and Green Bay media markets. They emphasize her efforts to strengthen “Buy American” requirements for public infrastructure projects and to curb prescription drug costs.


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