Wisconsin’s Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald looking to move up

Louis Weisberg, Staff writer

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, a right-wing firebrand who rules Wisconsin’s upper legislative chamber with an iron fist, is considering running in next year’s race against Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

But so are a number of other Republicans, who appear to see Baldwin as weak following Donald Trump’s victory in the state last year. Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate to win Wisconsin since 1984.

Nevertheless, Fitzgerald said the GOP must avoid a crowded primary that drains resources from candidates. That “would be foolish for all of us and makes no sense,” he said. “We just don’t need a bunch of tier one candidates knocking heads for a year before we find out what we’re doing.”

So last week, he announced that he’s deferring to the presumed frontrunner, U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, of Wausau, before deciding on whether to throw his hat into the senatorial ring.

Fitzgerald said Duffy is well-positioned for a state run and is “kind of driving the train right now.”

A former reality television star like Trump, Duffy was an early and fervent supporter of the current president. The telegenic congressman also shares Trump’s penchant for making false and radical claims.

In a Feb. 8 appearance on CNN, he suggested that terrorist attacks in the United States by white non-Muslims are rare and don’t rise to the same level of threat.

The website Vox.com responded by quoting an expert who’s compiled a list of 32 fatal white extremist attacks since Timothy McVeigh carried out the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, including one in Wisconsin. On August 5, 2012, a white supremacist carried out a massacre at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek.

In addition to considering a U.S. Senate bid, Fitzgerald is often mentioned as a prospective candidate for governor. But Walker’s apparent decision to seek a third term makes that prospect highly unlikely.

Fitzgerald also said he submitted his resume to President Donald Trump’s transition team shortly after the November election, but never heard back.

Fitzgerald said that he didn’t formally express interest in any particular job, and “didn’t even know what the process was. I still don’t fully understand it.” Fitzgerald was one of Trump’s biggest backers in Wisconsin.

Milwaukee County’s controversial Sheriff David Clarke also is considering a run against Baldwin after apparently failing to obtain an appointment in the Trump administration. Trump’s transition team interviewed Clarke, whose outrageous tweets, statements and Facebook posts rival those of Trump.

But the high-profile interview, which was rumored to have been for a cabinet post for Homeland Security, has led nowhere.

A pro-Clarke political action committee recently attacked Baldwin’s sexual orientation, which was presumably the opening salvo in Clarke’s potential senatorial campaign.