GOP Senate hopeful Kevin Nicholson supported Rosie O'Donnell's gun control views

MILWAUKEE -- Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson makes his conversion from a Democrat a central part of his campaign.

But his past support of Rosie O'Donnell's views on gun control? He says it's old news.

Nicholson, who says he will protect Wisconsinites' right to own and carry firearms, sent a letter to O'Donnell in 2000 asking her to speak at a forum on "sensible gun control." Nicholson was then president of the College Democrats of America.

"There is no single issue more important to our membership then (sic) the elimination of gun violence in America, particularly our schools," the letter reads. "The members of CDA are committed to electing a Congress and a President that support the common sense gun control measures which were demonstrated so fervently at the Million Mom March, and by you every day."

O'Donnell spoke at the Million Mom March in May 2000 and called on Congress to require that all gun owners get a license and store their guns with locking devices. The rally included a wall displaying the names of 4,001 victims of gun violence, Time reported.

"We have had enough -- enough of the (National Rifle Association) and their tactics," O'Donnell said at the march. "Enough of the stranglehold the NRA has in Congress and in the Senate. The NRA is buying votes with blood money."

Nicholson's name is on the bottom of the letter to O'Donnell, along with the name of Scott Levy, who chaired the 2000 College Democrats of America national convention.

"We are very willing to try and accommodate your schedule," the pair wrote in their June 9, 2000 pitch to O'Donnell, a few weeks after the march.

Michael Antonopoulos, a spokesman for Nicholson, did not deny that Nicholson sent the letter. Instead, he criticized the media for reporting on the candidate's past views.

"It's pathetic to see the media recycle decades old invitations from an old (Democratic National Committee) hard drive," Antonopoulos said in an email. "Today, Kevin is a gun owner and a Marine combat veteran who defended our Constitutional rights on the battlefield. Kevin will protect the rights of Wisconsin citizens to own and carry firearms."

Antonopoulos said Nicholson's views about gun control changed when he was in the military.

Nicholson is running in the Republican primary for the right to face Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin next year. He says he converted to a Republican in the 2000s, after serving combat missions as a Marine. Later, he become a business consultant in Wisconsin.

His GOP opponent, state Sen. Leah Vukmir, has questioned Nicholson's conversion to conservatism. Answering a question about Nicholson this fall, Vukmir said, "I don’t know what his record is, other than what he tells us what it is," before suggesting Nicholson run for a state legislative seat instead.

Nicholson previously faced scrutiny for the praise he gave to a pro-abortion group in a separate 2000 letter.

Vukmir's campaign said the issue shows a difference between the GOP candidates.

"Leah is the only candidate in the race with a proven record of standing up for the Second Amendment, as made clear by her A rating from the NRA," said Mattias Gugel, a spokesman for Vukmir's campaign. "She’ll continue her efforts to get guns out of the hands of criminals while protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens."