What’s the difference between Eric Hovde and Sen. Tammy Baldwin on the issues?

By Pat Kreitlow

April 17, 2024

The Democratic incumbent will point to specific accomplishments while the Republican challenger will outline general concerns he would address.

[Editor’s Note: This is part of a series about this year’s US Senate race in Wisconsin—including a profile of Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Republican challenger Eric Hovde.]

Wisconsin Democratic US Senator Tammy Baldwin is campaigning for a third term on a list of accomplishments rooted in a consistent set of positions on the issues dating back to her previous roles in the US House and the Wisconsin Legislature.

By contrast, any new summary of US Senate candidate Eric Hovde’s positions on the issues will require reviewing how some of those stances have changed since his last attempt to capture that Senate seat.

For example, only days ago, Hovde acknowledged to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that his position on renewable energy doesn’t match what he said during his 2012 campaign. Back then, Hovde derided as “crony capitalism” the tax credits made available for people and businesses that chose cleaner energy sources and said he was “wholeheartedly” opposed to them.

Fast forward to 2021, when the California bank he owns began a Solar Finance division that offered a “big solar green energy tax credit,” according to the Journal Sentinel story. Now, Sunwest bank is funding more than $200 million in projects and gives credit to President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act.

Hovde told the newspaper that he came to see that “my assumptions were wrong” and that technology had improved.

By contrast, Baldwin has for years supported energy credits, such as the Rural Utilities Service program that provides millions of dollars so that farms and small businesses can add solar arrays and other green energy improvements. She also supports a proposal to expand the domestic supply chain to support solar manufacturing jobs in the US.

Abortion Evasion

Hovde’s evolution on the tax credits doesn’t get nearly as much attention as his changing stances on women’s reproductive rights. In 2012, he repeatedly described himself as “totally opposed to abortion” and supported attempts to repeal Roe v. Wade, as was done by the US Supreme Court ten years later. Now, with Roe repealed, Hovde emphasizes his support for exemptions from abortion bans for rape and incest.

Hovde also now says he wants to allow “women, early on in a pregnancy, a right to make a choice,” but would not say at what point in a pregnancy he would take away that choice, leaving it up to voters in each state to dictate personal health decisions.

Baldwin has spent the time since the Dobbs decision aggressively advocating for the restoration of federal protections for women and supporting women who are forced to seek care out of state.

Border Battles

Hovde has been stressing national issues in the early weeks of his campaign, which includes a heavy emphasis on attacking immigrants as dangerous drug-runners rather than families seeking asylum as they flee violence and poverty. In one television ad, Hovde says, “I’ll work to fix this problem,” without offering specifics.

Baldwin has offered specific proposals to reduce the amount of fentanyl coming across the border and some were incorporated into a bipartisan border security and immigration reform bill that Republicans abandoned when former President Donald Trump said passing a bill would take away one of his campaign talking points.

Hovde said the flow of drugs into the US is “an unmitigated human tragedy that needs to end, period.” But he has not publicly objected that Trump is allowing the tragedy to continue in order to help his effort to win in November.

“This bipartisan compromise was a promising opportunity to invest in high-tech border security, disrupt the deadly flow of fentanyl into our country, [and] streamline our asylum process,” Baldwin said.

“Unfortunately, some of my colleagues decided to play politics and block this common-sense, compromise approach. I remain committed to being part of the solution to fix our broken immigration system, secure our Southern border, and work with Republicans and Democrats to keep Wisconsinites safe.”

Lack of Specifics

The issues section of Hovde’s website covers four areas, including immigration. The section on health care contains a relatively paltry 300 words, most of them dedicated to criticizing the Affordable Care Act, without offering any clues as to what kind of replacement he would put in its place. The section on the economy is equally vague. On foreign affairs, Hovde parrots a readily debunked claim that falsely asserted Iran had received “plane loads of cash” to fund Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel.

Baldwin’s campaign website covers 15 different topics, each mentioning legislation or some other action taken during her two terms in office.


  • Pat Kreitlow

    The Founding Editor of UpNorthNews, Pat was a familiar presence on radio and TV stations in western Wisconsin before serving in the state Legislature. After a brief stint living in the Caribbean, Pat and wife returned to Chippewa Falls to be closer to their growing group of grandchildren. He now serves as UNN's chief political correspondent and host of UpNorthNews Radio, airing weekday mornings 6 a.m.-8 a.m on the Civic Media radio network and the UpNorthNews Facebook page.

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