Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, of Illinois, joined with 28 other veterans Wednesday in calling for Wisconsin Republican Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson to apologize for questioning the "cognitive thought process" of veterans who are Democrats.
Nicholson is a Marine veteran running against state Sen. Leah Vukmir for a chance to take on Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin in November. The primary is Aug. 14 but on Saturday Wisconsin Republicans will vote at their state convention on which candidate to endorse.
Nicholson has repeatedly refused to apologize for his comment about veterans, first made in a radio interview last week. In that interview on WTMJ-AM Nicholson said that serving in the military is inherently conservative.
"I'll tell you what: Those veterans that are out there in the Democrat Party, I question their cognitive thought process because the bottom line is, they're signing up to defend the constitution that their party is continually dragging through the mud," he said.
When called to apologize last week, Nicholson emailed supporters and said, "I'll never apologize for saying that, ever."
Nicholson has also rejected calls from Republican veterans supporting Vukmir to apologize for earlier comments he made about veterans during an April 25 debate, including inferring that Vukmir didn't respect his service.
The veterans writing to him on Wednesday said they were "extremely disappointed" with his disparaging comments about Democratic veterans. They accused him of disrespecting veterans in order to advance his own political career.
"It is beneath any serviceman or woman to politicize veterans and assert that patriotism is limited to members of one political party," Duckworth and the other Democrats wrote. "Our politics are more divided than ever, and polarizing comments like those made by Mr. Nicholson only sow deeper divisions in our country."
Nicholson's spokesman discounted the criticism.
"Liberal politicians begging for apologies are just trying to cover up their own missteps," said Nicholson spokesman Brandon Moody on Wednesday. "The list of those who have signed this letter includes veterans who have either directly supported policy blunders like the Iran deal, or who support politicians like Tammy Baldwin who do so. They supported and defended the Constitution when in uniform, but now advocate for a Democrat Party that undermines that same Constitution and our nation's security."
Current or former Democratic office holders who joined Duckworth in signing the letter included U.S. Sen. Max Cleland , of Georgia, U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, of Massachusetts, and former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, now the head of Let America Vote, a group fighting against voter suppression and partisan gerrymandering.
The partisan affiliation of other veterans who signed was not indicated on the letter.