Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson endorsed construction company co-owner Tim Michels for governor on Friday, after Thompson decided against a run earlier this year.
Michels also won the backing of former President Donald Trump last month. Polls show Michels is in a tight primary race with former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.
Thompson, elected four times as Wisconsin governor, said in April when he opted against running for governor that he would consider endorsing in the primary because he wants a Republican to win. He said Friday he believes that Michels is the best candidate.
Thompson, in a statement said he has known the Michels family for decades and he believes Michels has the experience to "solve tough problems." The Michels family founded and operates Michels Corp., a Wisconsin-based construction company.
"Tim Michels knows how to lead large organizations and how-to get-tough jobs done, and that’s what Wisconsin needs," Thompson said.
Michels said in a statement that he was "happy the governor who reformed welfare and developed the first school choice program in America is now on our team."
Minutes after Michels revealed the Thompson endorsement, Kleefisch announced that she was being backed by 50 Republican members of the state Legislature. Republicans hold a strong majority in the Senate and Assembly, but have been stymied by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and his veto.
A Republican governor would be able to enact a broad conservative agenda with the help of the GOP Legislature. Evers has made his ability to block the Republican agenda a cornerstone of his reelection campaign.
In addition to Michels and Kleefisch, state Rep. Timothy Ramthun is also running. A fourth candidate, Kevin Nicholson, dropped out this week and said he would not endorse anyone.
The winner of the Aug. 9 primary will take on Evers.