Wisconsin Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher said he will not seek to challenge Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin next year, but will seek reelection to the House to continue work on a select committee he chairs focused on China.
“I have a rare, bipartisan opportunity in the 118th Congress to help restore American strength, prevent war in the Pacific, and defend our basic freedoms from communist aggression,” Gallagher, a Marine Corps veteran serving his fourth term, said in a statement Friday. “Accomplishing this mission and serving Wisconsin’s 8th District deserve my undivided attention. Therefore, I will not run for the Senate in 2024 and will pursue re-election to the House.”
Gallagher was seen as a top Republican recruit to challenge Baldwin, a two-term senator in a swing state. A poll conducted on behalf of the National Republican Senatorial Committee last month found that Gallagher could be competitive against Baldwin in a hypothetical matchup.
“It’s obviously disappointing, but it would have been political malpractice not to try to recruit Mike Gallagher. We will have a strong candidate in Wisconsin,” Tate Mitchell, an NRSC spokesman, said in a statement.
Gallagher is a defense hawk and has a significant platform in the House as chair of the Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party.
“I believe that when we look back in 50 years, the American people will ask: Did our elected leaders rally as a country and confront the Chinese Communist Party threat before it was too late? Continuing to lead this fight in the House of Representatives is the best way for me to help answer that question affirmatively,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher has said he will not support former President Donald Trump in 2024, and called for a younger GOP nominee to try to take back the White House.
With Gallagher closing the door on a bid, the Republican field to take on Baldwin remains open. Rep. Tom Tiffany has said he is considering running, and purchased an internet domain name implying a Senate run.
Businessman Eric Hovde, who previously lost a Republican primary for Senate, is also considering a run. Hovde spent $6 million on his 2012 campaign. Other potential candidates include Scott Mayer, a staffing company executive who has said he will decide on a run by Labor Day, and former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.
Democrats dominate the list of most vulnerable senators up for reelection next year as the party tries to hold its 51-49 majority. Though on defense, Democrats argue that competitive Republican primaries could help their candidates. Inside Elections rates the Wisconsin Senate race as a Battleground.
“Mike Gallagher, Mitch McConnell’s handpicked Senate recruit, passed on running because he knew he couldn’t beat Tammy Baldwin,” Arik Wolk, the rapid response director of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, said in a statement. “The Wisconsin GOP is staring down another chaotic, messy, intra-party primary with Sheriff David Clarke leading the pack.”
Baldwin announced her reelection campaign earlier this year. She had $3.9 million on hand at the end of March.