MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said Tuesday he has ruled out a run for Wisconsin governor in 2022, but he remains undecided about whether to seek a third term in the Senate.
“ I have no idea who started that rumor, but if I run for anything, it’s not going to be for governor,” Johnson said in response to a question from conservative talk radio host Vicki McKenna. “So anybody considering governor, you’re not going to have me entering any kind of primary for governor.”
Johnson himself floated the possibility of a run for governor back in 2019 when he was asked about it and responded “Never say never.”
Numerous Republicans are considering running for governor. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has not yet said whether he will seek a second term.
Former Republican Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch is building a campaign to run and others thinking about it include U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, former U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow, lobbyist Bill McCoshen and Reince Priebus, former President Donald Trump’s first chief of staff.
Kevin Nicholson, who ran for Senate in 2018 but lost in a Republican primary, plans to run for either Senate or governor.
Johnson had pledged in 2016 not to seek a third term in the Senate, but he’s since rescinded that and said in recent days that he may not make a decision for several more months.
Johnson has been doing numerous interviews in recent days to explain this comments saying he wasn’t afraid of insurrectionists at the U.S. Capitol in January, but he would have been concerned had they been Black Lives Matter protesters. The comments were denounced as racist, while Johnson said he was speaking about the rioters, not their race.
Johnson said in an interview Tuesday on WOSH-AM in Oshkosh that because he had been to Trump rallies and been around his supporters for “hours and hours,” he never felt threatened during the insurrection at the Capitol that resulted in five deaths, including one Capitol police officer.
Johnson has repeatedly accused his opponents of “playing the race card” against him to try and “destroy” him.
“It’s going to backfire on them because this just fires me up more,” Johnson said Tuesday.