One of Wisconsin’s younger leaders calls out Hovde for comments about older voters

Francesca Hong and Eric Hovde

State Rep. Francesca Hong (D-Madison) has been critical of remarks made by Republican US Senate candidate Eric Hovde about the ability of nursing home residents to cast their own votes.

By Bonnie Fuller

May 15, 2024

“Why would anyone want a senator that hates old people?” asks Rep. Francesca Hong about the US Senate candidate.

Rep. Francesca Hong (D-Madison) may be one of the younger members of the Wisconsin State Assembly, but she couldn’t be more emphatic about defending the right of elderly Wisconsinites to vote in light of a controversy ignited by Republican US Senate candidate Eric Hovde, the likely challenger to incumbent Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Asked about Hovde’s repeated assertions that nursing home residents may be too old to vote, Hong’s response is blistering.

“Why would anyone want a senator that hates old people?” Hong asked during an interview with UpNorthNews. “Let alone one who lives in California and wants to run in Wisconsin, self-fund a campaign, and then pretend to donate his senator salary back to where his own investments are in California?”

Hong, who has represented the 76th Assembly District since 2021, is calling out Hovde, on a number of attempts to defend or clarify his position.

The voting eligibility of Wisconsin nursing home residents had never been an election issue before Hovde raised it during an interview on Fox News Radio’s Guy Benson show in early April.

“Well, if you’re in a nursing home, you only have a five, six-month life expectancy,” Hovde said. “Almost nobody in a nursing home is in a point to vote.”

Then despite a barrage of criticism, Hovde doubled down on his anti-elderly point to WSAU Radio morning show host Meg Ellefson, a week and a half later, claiming that “a large percentage of those people (in nursing homes) are not in the mental capacity to do that.”

He also contended to Ellefson that a number of residents are “totally incapable. They either have dementia or at the very end stage of their life, they’re not capable of voting.They’re incapable of voting.”

Hong, the daughter of immigrants, who in their senior years help care for her 7 year-old son, is deeply offended by Hovde’s comments. But she said her parents find Hovde almost laughable.

“My parents don’t take him seriously. I think a lot of Wisconsinites don’t and they are confused actually about why he’s running for office and why his ads keep coming on during Jeopardy and they mute his commercials,” she told UpNorthNews.

“So many Republican candidates are unrelateable and out of touch, and I do think we have to talk more about how it’s the people who are closest to the issues and their lived experiences that makes them most prepared and well qualified to solve the issues,” she added.

It’s the fact that Hovde is wealthy and is the chief executive of a bank called Sunwest, which actually has ownership in nursing homes, that may have shaped his opinion about Wisconsin’s senior citizens.

Sunwest is part owner of a senior living facility accused of elder abuse, negligence and wrongful death in a lawsuit filed in March. Hovde’s campaign has called the lawsuit meritless.

Hovde also claimed without any proof to a WISN-TV reporter that there were “irregularities” with votes cast by nursing home residents in the 2020 election.

Wisconsin is home to 970,000 citizens, 65 and over who voted in 2022 and the population of seniors in the state has increased 10% in the past 10 years. That amounts to 200,000 more voters in just 10 years, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.


  • Bonnie Fuller

    Bonnie Fuller is the former CEO & Editor-in-Chief of, and the former Editor-in-Chief of Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, USWeekly and YM. She now writes about politics and reproductive rights.



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