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May 29, 2024
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Lawsuit Puts Fresh Focus on Eric Hovde’s Comments About Older Voters

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Pressed on his claims of 2020 election irregularities, the Republican candidate for Senate in Wisconsin has questioned the mental capacity of nursing home residents to vote.

Eric Hovde, the chief executive of Sunwest Bank, has drawn attention to his lending into the nursing home industry during his campaign for Senate in Wisconsin.Credit…Jamie Kelter Davis for The New York Times

Eric Hovde, the Republican banking executive challenging Senator Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, may be developing a problem with older voters.

The bank he leads, Utah-based Sunwest, last month was named as a co-defendant in a California lawsuit that accuses a senior living facility partly owned by the bank of elder abuse, negligence and wrongful death.

Mr. Hovde’s campaign called the suit meritless and said it was farcical to hold the chairman and chief executive of a bank responsible for the actions of a business that it seized in a foreclosure in 2021. Whatever its merits, the suit might have been largely irrelevant to Mr. Hovde’s political campaign had he himself not boasted recently of having gained expertise in the nursing home industry as a lender to such residences.

In comments this month in which he suggested there had been irregularities in the 2020 election, Mr. Hovde drew on that experience to say that residents of nursing homes “have a five-, six-month life expectancy” and that “almost nobody in a nursing home is at a point to vote.” Those remarks were quickly condemned by Democrats in Wisconsin and by the former Milwaukee Bucks star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

The recent pileup of problems is an inauspicious start to a campaign that Republicans hope will help wrest control of the Senate from Democrats. Mr. Hovde is one of four affluent Republicans who are running to unseat Democratic incumbents, in Ohio, Montana, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Each of those states either leans heavily Republican in the upcoming presidential contest or is rated a tossup, and the loss of any one of those seats could cost Democrats control of the Senate. The deep pockets of candidates like Mr. Hovde will ease the G.O.P.’s heavy fund-raising burden as the party confronts Democrats’ early financial advantage.


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