Who Is Eric Hovde?

Hovde Baldwin

By Pat Kreitlow

April 17, 2024

Getting to know the contenders for this November’s US Senate election.

[Editor’s Note: Part of a series that profiles the candidates and issues in the race for US Senate. There is also a profile of incumbent Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin. Another story compares their positions on some of the issues likely to come up during the campaign.]

Mogul. Perhaps a magnate. Not quite a baron. Certainly not a tycoon. However you label it, Republican US Senate candidate Eric Hovde brings to the race the perspective of someone born and raised in a big business environment, in a country where he says the American Dream is “slipping away.” In his second attempt at a US Senate seat, Hovde tells voters he’s smarter than incumbent Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin and wants people to know it.

“We have a bunch of people running our economy that don’t know anything about the economy,” Hovde told a conservative news site. “I understand the issues that drive our economy. I can’t wait to debate Tammy Baldwin, but she probably won’t. She won’t even understand half the things I am talking about.”

Upon his entry into the Senate race last month, Hovde was described in the press as a “real estate mogul” whose “business empire” includes a real estate development company in Madison started by his great-grandfather. Hovde started his own hedge fund, “bought troubled banks, turning them around,” and now serves as CEO of Utah-based Sunbank, a privately-held commercial bank worth $2.7 billion, with locations in four western states and Florida. His past portfolio has also included tens of millions of dollars invested in insurance companies that operated in the US but evaded taxes by claiming a home office based in Bermuda.

Prior to starting his West Coast career, Hovde spent significant time in Washington, DC, where his father was an undersecretary in President Ronald Reagan’s Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In 2012, Hovde finished second to former Gov. Tommy Thompson in a bruising 4-way Republican primary. Similar to now, Hovde said in 2012 he was running for the seat out of frustration.

“I just got tired of yelling at the television set every morning,” Hovde told Milwaukee’s WITI-TV in 2012. He later told WisconsinEye he wouldn’t run again if he lost that primary.

Hovde made it less likely that he’ll have a competitive primary this time, after placing a seven-figure ad buy to run a barrage of TV commercials across the state. Supporters expect him to spend up to $20 million of his own money in the race.

That family wealth—estimated at $52 million in 2012— has also been put into charitable projects in several different countries, with projects that build homes and care for children.

Author

  • 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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