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Voting records may haunt possible Wisconsin GOP Senate picks

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Two potential Republican candidates for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin have voting records that could call into question their conservative credentials and hurt them in a potentially crowded GOP primary.

Kevin Nicholson and Nicole Schneider are among several possible challengers to Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin in 2018. Nicholson, a former Marine, has already drawn strong financial support from GOP mega-donor Richard Uihlein. Schneider is daughter-in-law of the former head of Schneider National Trucking, providing a strong financial base if she gets in.

Nicholson, a former Democrat, has been making the rounds on conservative talk radio to say repeatedly that he’s been a Republican since 2000. But he registered as a Democrat in 2005 and cast a vote in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary and general election while living in North Carolina.

Nicholson said he voted “no preference” in the primary and voted for Republican John McCain in the general election. He pointed to $500 in donations to McCain’s campaign, made under his wife’s name in January and September of 2008, as evidence of his support.

Schneider didn’t vote in the 2012 recall election targeting Republican Gov. Scott Walker, according to her voter history on the Wisconsin Elections Commission website. Schneider also did not sign the petition to force the Walker recall, according to another online database.

Republicans often use a person’s position on the recall as a measuring stick of their political allegiances. Since Schneider said in March she was considering a run, some conservatives have questioned her allegiance to Republicans, citing social media posts she made that were supportive of Democrats and critical of GOP candidates, including President Donald Trump.

Schneider, 42, whose biography on Twitter describes her as a “supporter of conservative causes,” did not return emails seeking comment.

Nicholson, 39, was national president of the College Democrats of America and spoke in favor of Al Gore at the 2000 national convention. In a January interview on WIBA, he said he left his role in the College Democrats “absolutely sure I was not a Democrat.”

Nicholson told The Associated Press in an interview that his move from being a Democrat to a Republican was an evolution over time that began in 2000 and was complete by 2007 when he said he was “livid with the Democratic Party.”

Wisconsin Democratic Party spokeswoman Gillian Drummond dismissed Nicholson’s explanation.

“Kevin Nicholson hasn’t evolved, he’s always been a political opportunist,” she said.

Nicholson said he thinks Wisconsin voters will understand his change.

“I don’t worry about it one bit,” he said. “That’s the story of our state. … This is something that’s very familiar to a lot of voters in Wisconsin.”

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Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP and find more of his work at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/scott-bauer.

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