By Wisconsin Reporter
Four of the five Republican candidates seeking to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., are ready for tonight’s GOP debate at the Waukesha Expo Center.
Here are brief bios from the candidates.
Jeff Fitzgerald is the Republican speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly.
As Speaker, Fitzgerald has championed fiscally conservative policies to balance a $3.6 billion budget deficit without raising taxes, and advanced an agenda that includes regulatory relief, tort reform and tax cuts.
Prior to entering public service, Fitzgerald owned and operated two small businesses and spent eight years working at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Fitzgerald graduated from Universityof Wisconsin-Oshkosh, obtaining a B.S. in journalism after transferring from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay where he played basketball.
Fitzgerald lives in Horicon with his wife, Andrea, and their two children, Jack and Lauren. He is a member of the Sacred Heart Parish Catholic Church in Horicon.
Eric Hovde is a third-generation Wisconsinite. He was born and raised in Madison and he graduated from the University of Wisconsin where he studied Economics and International Relations.
Hovde spent his career in the private sector. He first worked as a financial advisor focused on community banking. Then, at age 24, Hovde took a risk, and with just $5,000 he began his own financial advisory firm.
In 1994, Hovde took another risk. Using his life’s savings, he bought a controlling stake in Monarch Savings Bank. Hovde turned that business around, and since that time, he has invested in several community banks around the country and created hundreds of jobs.
Hovde serves as chief executive officer and board member for Hovde Properties LLC, which purchases, develops and manages real estate in Wisconsin. Founded by Hovde’s grandfather “Inky” in 1933 as I. Hovde Realty Co., Hovde Properties was later led by Hovde’s father, Don, a real estate developer who served as undersecretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Reagan administration.
In addition, he is a significant shareholder and board member of ePlus, Inc., a value-added reseller of technology products.
Hovde’s experience in the private sector and his understanding of the interplay between the economy and the financial and real estate markets have led to numerous appearances on CNBC and Bloomberg TV, as well as in the pages of national print publications like The Washington Post.
A Christian with a deep sense of personal responsibility and gratitude, he created the Hovde Foundation with his brother, Steve, in 1998. The Hovde Foundation supports clinical research in the race to cure
Multiple Sclerosis and provides shelter and supportive services to people in crisis, especially street and neglected children in the United States, Africa and Latin America.
Hovde and his wife, Sharon, have two daughters and live on Madison’s West Side. The Hovde family attends Bethel Lutheran Church.
Mark Neumann’s conservative philosophy is rooted in his background in business, Congress, and education.
Neumann started his first business in the basement of his home. His first year, he nearly lost his shirt. But he kept at it, and four years later he was building 120 homes. Twenty-five years later Mark has the largest homebuilding company in southeast Wisconsin and has created hundreds of private sector jobs.
Neumann said he believes in the American Dream because he’s lived it.
In 1994 Neumann won a seat in Congress by defeating a Democrat incumbent. He quickly built a reputation for fierce independence, integrity and decency. Neumann went to Congress to balance the federal budget and cut taxes to restore the struggling economy.
In fact, Neumann was such a fierce opponent of deficits, congressional leaders of both parties threatened to end his “political” career if he voted against their spending. In 1995, Republican
Party bosses kicked him off the Appropriations Committee for voting against higher spending.
“I don’t have a career in politics. I’m a business owner,” he said.
Neumann wrote every member of Congress saying, “If I am kicked off this committee for voting my conscience then I’m only sorry I don’t have more committees to get kicked off of.”
Conservative Republicans rallied to support Neumann. They backed his reinstatement and forced congressional leaders to restore Neumann to the Appropriations Committee. Not only that, they put Neumann on the Budget Committee, making him the first freshman in the history of Congress to serve on both the Appropriations and Budget Committees at the same time.
Neumann wrote a plan to balance the budget that would later be part of the framework for the 1998 balanced budget. Speaker Newt Gingrich called Neumann “an absolute prophet of balancing the budget, brilliant and idealistic.”
Considered Wisconsin’s most conservative congressman in the past 30 years, Neumann repeatedly voted for lower taxes — never raising taxes —voted 100 percent pro-life, pro-marriage, and was rated A+ by the NRA.
After the 1998 balanced budget — the first in 30 years — Neumann returned to his businesses. He decided to try his hand at stock trading and earned a Series 7 and Series 66 before eventually returning to homebuilding.
In 2000, Neumann became so frustrated with how some public schools, especially in urban areas, were failing students that he decided to co-found the Hope Schools, Choice Schools. Neumann previously had been a public high school math teacher and drew from some of his own personal experiences in the classroom. After more than a decade dedicating time and money to them, these schools have been profiled nationally for their success. Hope students’ test scores are higher than peer students despite spending less money.
Neumann’s campaign for United States Senate has been endorsed by the Club for Growth, U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Tom Coburn, and many others.
Neumann and his wife, Sue, a lifelong Wisconsin residents, reside in Nashotah, where they worship
at Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church in Pewaukee. They have three children, and four
grandchildren. In 2010, Neumann was Wisconsin’s State Champion for Beer Stein Holding
(Masskrugstemmen) and represented Wisconsin at the national competition in New York City
Born in the Wausau area, and a life-long Wisconsin resident, Kip Smith graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee with his physical therapy degree in 1995.
Smith is an Outpatient Orthopedic Physical Therapist, specializing in the treatment of persons with chronic pain. He has been a physical therapist for 17 years, 12 of them in the Rhinelander area, where he lives with his wife of almost four years, and two sons, ages 3 and 1.
Smith has never held public office, but said he could no longer sit by and watch his country destroy itself from intense hatred for anyone with differing opinions, and with the complete disregard for the financial crisis we are in as a nation.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has just recently announced that the country has one or two years before our federal government becomes bankrupt, like Greece, if nothing changes. Smith said he believes that the U.S. cannot afford this and immediate action must be taken if we are going to avoid this.
He does not view the U.S. Senate as a career choice, but instead as his duty as a citizen to serve his country in its most dire time of need.
Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson declined the invitation to participate.