A Republican candidate inWisconsin’s heated Senate race questioned the thinking of military service members who are Democrats, arguing that their service contradicts their political views.
During an interview on Wednesday with WTMJ radio host Steve Scaffidi, Marine veteran and GOP Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson discussed his military service and cited former U.S. Secretary of StateJohn Kerryas an example of a Democrat who signed up to serve the country.
He continued, “Those veterans that are out there in the Democrat Party, Iquestion their cognitive thought processbecause the bottom line is, they’re signing up to defend the Constitution that their party is continually dragging through the mud.”
Nicholson also told Scaffidi that “to defend the Constitution ... is, of course, a conservative value” and that the “Democrat Party has wholesale rejected the Constitution and the values that it was founded upon.”
VoteVets, a progressive veterans advocacy group, called on Nicholson to apologize for his comments.
“What a horrible thing to say about his brothers & sisters,” the grouptweeted Wednesday. “We disagree with conservative veterans, but their views are their right.”
After the radio interview, VoteVets shared several tweets from veterans and veteran advocates who said they were insulted by Nicholson’s remarks.
Once again Trumps way of thinking, dividing our Military, this is so dangerous on so many levels, like pitting one service over the other!— Sue (@suejard) May 2, 2018
@KevinMNicholsonI come from a very long line of veterans of every war this country has ever been involved in. I find your comments to be an insult and asinine. You might want to study some history before insulting the entire US Military.— CINDY LOU II (@USMCBRAT2) May 2, 2018
Well, the@GOPcandidates would say anything to get a few votes. However, this wannabe just say the wrong thing at the wrong time, in the wrong State... Wisconsin is proud of its veterans regardless of which political party they follow... Go out and vote...#BlueWave2018...— luis (@1sgmoran) May 2, 2018
Despite his declarations about conservative values, Nicholson’s own GOP credentials have been questioned during his campaign to challenge Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) for her seat in the U.S. Senate.
Nicholson’s primary opponent Leah Vukmir, a GOP state senator, questioned his “track record as a Republican” last week during the candidates’ first public debate. Nicholson, acorporate consultant, was an active Democrat during his college years, leading the College Democrats of America as president and evenspeaking at the 2000 Democratic National Convention.
“We know more about Kevin’s track record as a Democrat than we do about his track record as a Republican,” Vukmir said,according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
After Nicholson’s interview with Scaffidi on Wednesday, Democratic Super PAC American Bridgereleased a statementaccusing Nicholson of insulting fellow veterans based on their political views.
“Our servicemen and women lay their lives on the line every day to protect Americans’ right to freedom of expression,” American Bridge spokeswoman Amelia Penniman said. “That Kevin Nicholson imagines otherwise is an affront to those who serve, and to the Constitution he claims to protect.”
“Kevin Nicholson is so desperate to hide from Republican primary voters that he used to be a Democrat that he is willing to publicly disparage his fellow veterans,” Penniman added. “That’s the very worst of political opportunism.”
Nicholson’s campaign clarified his comments to CNN’s KFileby focusing on his criticism of the Democratic Party and Democrats, claiming they have “shown overt disrespect to our veterans.”
“Kevin made clear that all members of the military ― regardless of their political party ― sign up to defend and protect the Constitution and its principles,” campaign spokesman Brandon Moodytold CNN.
“But Kevin also believes that the Democrat Party has become unmoored from the Constitution and has lost its way.”
Nicholson’s parents made news in February after they gave thelargest possible donationto Baldwin’s primary campaign, months after their son had announced his bid to run against her.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.