Tommy Thompson, the ex-governor and former secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), beat off his nearest GOP challenger, hedge fund manager Eric Hovde, 34 percent to 31 percent. The other challenger, former Rep. Mark Neumann, finished at 23 percent, while State Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald won 12 percent of the vote.
Thompson is most well known perhaps not for his stint as Bush 43′s secretary of HHS but for his leading role in reforming welfare with Wisconsin Works, which created new conditions for those on unemployment roles to seek employment. It was seen as such a success that Bill Clinton even adopted it at the federal level in the form of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA).
The former governor was also known for bringing school choice to Wisconsin, which allowed low-income children to attend the public or private school of their choice, as well as BadgerCare, which provided health insurance to those families who weren’t covered at work and didn’t make enough to afford the coverage on their own.
Though Thompson was pro-business, he wasn’t nearly as controversial as current Governor Scott Walker, so it’s possible he will be able to swing moderate voters away from Baldwin in the general election, especially with the aforementioned moderate bona fidas.
At 70 years old, however, his age might be a problem for some voters, though his stature in Wisconsin political history could very well overcome this variable.