MADISON, Wis. — New reporting from Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that multimillionaire California bank owner Eric Hovde (R–Laguna Beach) has missed voting in 17 of the last 30 elections.
Hovde missed voting in crucial Wisconsin elections, including the 2019 Supreme Court race, which was decided by only 5,981 votes, and the 2023 Supreme Court primary. In 2022, he missed voting because he was on a yacht trip in Cabo that week. And the most recent time he bothered to vote? He and his wife had their ballots sent to their $7 million mansion in Laguna Beach, CA.
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- Madison mogul Eric Hovde will want you to cast your ballot for him if he decides to take on Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin next year.
But records show Hovde has often done a poor job getting to the polls himself in the past decade.
- Of the last 15 contests since the 2018 general election, Hovde has voted in only six of them.
- In 2019, for instance, Hovde didn’t vote in the hotly contested spring contest between conservative Brian Hagedorn and liberal Lisa Neubauer for the state Supreme Court, an election Hagedorn won by only about 6,000 votes. There’s no record that Hovde requested an absentee ballot to vote in this race.
- Hovde also skipped the spring election in April 2022. The Facebook page for one of his California banks shows he was in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, on a luxury sportfisher on an “annual bond trip” the day before the election.
- Again, in last year’s spirited spring primary for state Supreme Court, Hovde was missing in action. But weeks later he was on a conservative talk show urging people to do what he hadn’t done — head to the polls in the race between conservative Dan Kelly and liberal Janet Protasiewicz, who eventually won decisively.
- “Remember, get Dan Kelly elected because we don’t want to turn into Illinois,” Hovde told conservative talker Vicki McKenna on March 13, three weeks before the election. “I mean, she is way out there, so please get out to support Dan.”
- Hovde voted in this year’s spring general election by absentee ballot. State records show his ballot and the one for his wife were sent to their multimillion-dollar home in Laguna Bay, California, on March 16 and returned 11 days later.
- The Journal Sentinel reported earlier this year that Hovde and his wife paid nearly $7 million in 2018 to buy a luxurious hillside estate in Laguna Beach, California, with an unimpeded view of the shimmering Pacific Ocean. The California residence cost more than three times what Hovde laid out for his Madison-area house.
- By purchasing the California home, Hovde put himself only 15 miles away from his Irvine-based H Bancorp and its primary subsidiary, Sunwest Bank. He is chairman and CEO of both entities.
Overall, Hovde was absent for 17 of the 30 elections over the past decade.
- “The bulk of the votes I missed were primary votes in municipal and county elections,” Hovde said. “Obviously, in many Republican primaries in Madison and Dane county there are either no Republican candidates or no contested primary on the Republican side.”
- Wisconsin Democrats were quick to rip Hovde, who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2012, for being AWOL from the voting booth more often than not.
- “Maybe if Eric Hovde spent more time in Wisconsin and less time in his California house or on a yacht in Cabo, he wouldn’t have to make up lies about his spotty voting record,” said Arik Wolk, rapid response director for the state Democratic Party.
Hovde isn’t the only possible GOP candidate with a poor voting record. Mayer, chairman of the staffing and recruitment company QPS Employment Group, has been absent without leave in numerous races since 2018 but has been at a loss for words when asked to explain.
- “I didn’t vote, and I couldn’t even recall that I didn’t,” Mayer told the Journal Sentinel in July. “I don’t know why. I mean, I don’t have good reason.”
- In 2018, he didn’t cast a ballot at all, meaning he missed out in the neck-and-neck gubernatorial race between Democrat Tony Evers and Republican incumbent Scott Walker. Incredibly, he also sat out the primary and general U.S. Senate races won by Baldwin, the same person he now is talking about challenging.
- His record was no better in 2020. He didn’t cast a ballot in the crucial presidential primary and general elections in Wisconsin between incumbent Republican Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
- In recent weeks, sources say Hovde and Mayer met to discuss the Senate race. Some pundits, including conservative talk-show host Mark Belling, have been calling on Republicans to make sure there isn’t a blood bath in the Senate primary.
- Mayer did not respond when asked about the meeting with the Madison banker.
- Hovde was only slightly more talkative, saying he “obviously” wouldn’t divulge what was discussed in any meetings he may have had with the Franklin businessman.