Tom Nelson is running for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Ron Johnson (R-Oshkosh)

Tom Nelson, the Outagamie County Executive seeking to replace Ron Johnson as one of the state’s two members of the United States Senate, is the featured speaker at the March 6 meeting of the Green Lake County Dems & Friends.

Nelson, a Democrat, has been the county’s top elected official since 2011. On April 5, 2011, Nelson defeated former Republican State Treasurer of Wisconsin Jack Voight for county executive of Outagamie County, by roughly 52% – 48%. He had advanced to the general election by winning a six-way primary in February. He sought re-election two times in 2015 and 2019 and was uncontested in each race

He also served as the majority leader of the Wisconsin state assembly back in2008 when the Dems had control of the state legislature. In 2016  he unsuccessfully sought to win the 8th Congressional seat now held by Republican Mike Gallagher. Gallagher earned 63% of the vote to Nelson’s 37%.

Nelson was first elected to the Assembly (District 5) in 2004, defeating Republican incumbent Becky Weber 51 percent to 49 percent.[7] He was the only Democratic to unseat an incumbent legislative Republican.[8] When he took office on January 3, 2005, he was the youngest member of the state Assembly. Nelson defeated Jim Reigel of Hobart 62 percent to 38 percent. Nelson sought re-election again in 2008, beating Jim Steineke, 64 percent to 34 percent. Members of the Assembly Democratic caucus elected him Majority Leader on November 12, 2008, for the upcoming 2009-10 session. 

In 2010, Nelson announced that he was running for the position of Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin, rather than seek re-election to the Assembly. He gave up his position of Majority Leader post with the goal of helping Tom Barrett defeat Scott Walker.

Nelson waited until the end of the legislative session to launch his campaign because he wanted to focus on “his legislative responsibilities”. Nelson officially announced his candidacy on May 25, 2010, just over three months before the fall primary on September 10, 2010.

On September 14, Nelson won the Democratic nomination in a four-way race, defeating State Senator Spencer Coggs and two others.

During the general election, Nelson made repeated requests to Republican lieutenant governor nominee Rebecca Kleefish to debate, but Kleefisch refused. The gubernatorial candidates debated three times.

Nelson and running mate Tom Barrett (who ran as a ticket) were defeated in the 2010 general election by and Walker and Kleefisch.

During the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, Nelson was a delegate for Bernie Sanders.

Few people are sure–perhaps even Johnson himself–if the two-term (6 years per term) Senator will even run again in 2022, but Nelson is not waiting; he announced for the position back in October of 2020. Johnson is being cagey about his plans, having announced back in 2016 that he would not run for reelection. Since that announcement, Johnson has edged his bets and according to some reports he will run again.

Most famously, Johnson has been one of the disgraced former president Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters. He has also been the chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. In that role Johnson has repeatedly attacked President Joe Burden’s son’s business relationships in China and the Urkaine, despite a Trimp Justice Department stated that it could find no indication’ that Hunter Biden’s business relationships were improper.

Nelson doesn’t appear to have a campaign website or even a Facebook page. He does appear all over the official Outagamie County FB page where he regularly does 1-minute little videos. 

Nelson received his MPA from Princeton and his B.A. from Carleton College.

Content for this post came from Ballopedia and Wikipedia.



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