Trump ally Tim Michaels faces Walker protégé Rebecca Kleefisch in the Wis. governor’s race

Madison, Wis. — The Republican hoping to reclaim a key governor’s seat in swing state Wisconsin this year is Rebecca Klefisch, a former TV news anchor who spent eight years as the heir apparent to former Gov. Scott Walker. He expressed his determination to continue. Strictly conservative policies. Then a wealthy construction company owner jumped in, putting $12 million of his own money into the race and enlisting the support of Donald Trump.

Now Tim Michels is in a competitive race against Clayfish heading into Tuesday’s primary to decide who will challenge Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in November.

The contest is part of a deepening proxy battle between Trump and his former vice president, Mike Pence, who has endorsed Clayfish. And that could ultimately have implications for 2024, when Trump has ruled out another White House bid and expressed a willingness to pressure elected officials, including those in Wisconsin, to overturn the election results. Is.

Michaels has focused on building an outsider candidate — bolstered by Trump’s endorsement — while Clayfish has embraced his establishment support as evidence that he is the more reliable GOP choice.

Trump appeared with Michaels at a Friday night rally in Waukesha, the heart of Milwaukee’s conservative suburbs. Trump called Clayfish “a career politician and a political insider. I’ve known him for a long time. He’s the chosen candidate of the failed establishment, the RINOs. It’s a derogatory term for “Republican in name only.” is standing

“Rebecca Kleifish doesn’t have what it takes to beat Tony Evers,” Trump said. “If he runs against Rebecca, he’ll win.”

Michaels appeared on stage with Trump, but did not call for overturning the 2020 election.

Both Klefisch and Michaels have questioned President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in Wisconsin in 2020 — a result that has been contested by recounts, lawsuits and reviews — but neither Trump has confirmed those results. did not conduct a pressure campaign.

Clayfish has called the 2020 election “rigged” but said she would not consider decertification because “it’s not constitutionally possible.” Michaels initially called a 2020 victory for Biden in Wisconsin “not a priority” and then later said “everything will be on the table.”

Both Michaels and Clayfish want to end the current bipartisan commission that conducts state elections.

A third Republican candidate for governor, state Rep. Tim Ramathan, has repeatedly called for decertification and made it the centerpiece of his long-shot campaign.

Biden’s win in Wisconsin has withstood two partial recounts, several lawsuits, a nonpartisan audit and a review by a conservative law firm. Republican legislative leaders have repeatedly said certification is impossible.

Clayfish has the support of not only Pence, but also his former boss, Walker, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, GOP leaders in the Legislature, 56 lawmakers, the state chamber of commerce, the Tavern League and a majority of the state’s county sheriffs. .

“I’m one that’s been tested and proven and ready to go,” Klefisch said after speaking with Pence at a stop in suburban Milwaukee on Wednesday. “I’m the one who won statewide four times.”

Michaels claims he is “not a politician,” but he has been a largely behind-the-scenes power player for decades and previously ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004, losing to then-Sen. . Russ Feingold. He has been a regular donor to Republicans, including both Walker and Clayfisch.

“People want an outsider, people want a veteran, people want a businessman,” Michaels said at the candidates’ debate.

Wisconsin is the third state where Pence and Trump have been pitted against each other in a gubernatorial race that underscored deep divisions over the future of the GOP. In Georgia, Pence-backed Governor Brian Kemp defeated Trump’s pick, former Sen. David Perdue, by more than 50 percentage points. In Arizona’s gubernatorial primary, Trump-backed former TV news anchor Kerry Lake and Pence-backed businesswoman Karen Taylor-Robson were in a race that was too early to call Thursday.

The area that drew Pence and Clayfish on Wednesday is Republican heartland Wisconsin and home to key suburban Milwaukee voters who will likely decide the fall election. It is also the home turf of clams. Trump, whose support in the area declined from 2016 to 2020, held his Friday rally for Michaels just three miles from where Pence came for Clayfish.

“There is no candidate for governor in the United States who is more qualified, more experienced, or more proven conservative than Rebecca Klefisch,” Pence said, referring to Klefisch without mentioning Trump or Michaels.

Clayfish is a former Milwaukee television news anchor and teenage beauty pageant contestant who entered politics in 2010 and won a five-way primary for lieutenant governor. After Evers beat Walker in 2018, Clayfish began laying the groundwork for his run.

It has reminded Republicans of the battles they went through with Walker, when mass protests erupted in 2011 after his proposal to effectively end collective bargaining and ultimately both him and Clayfish. An unsuccessful attempt was made to recall him from the office. This cycle, he has focused on issues such as establishing a flat income tax, expanding school choice programs and investing more in law enforcement.

Michaels co-owns Michaels Corp., the state’s largest construction company, with his brothers, and has spent about $1 million each week since joining the race. Although he uses Trump’s endorsement as evidence of his outsider status, he also has the support of Wisconsin’s ultimate Republican political insider — former four-term governor Tommy Thompson, who briefly dabbled in his own race. of

Michelle has stumbled at times.

This week he backtracked when asked if he would support a Trump run in 2024, first refusing to say so, then 24 hours later saying he would support Trump for president. In an earlier debate, he didn’t know what DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a highly controversial immigration program — meant. And he has faced criticism for buying $30 million in properties in New York and Connecticut between 2015 and 2020 and splitting time between Wisconsin and the East Coast, where his children attended and graduated from high school.

Michels’ positions on the boards of various transportation-related industry groups caused him heartburn, which Clayfish wanted to connect to the groups’ past support for state gas tax increases. Michel says he opposes the increase.

He has also run ads taking a strong anti-immigrant stance, even though he chairs the board of directors of a transportation group that opposed an anti-immigrant bill that would have barred companies that ” “Employs legal aliens” by obtaining state contracts.

In a battle for Republicans, Evers has raised more than $11 million this year and is casting himself as the only bloc against Republicans who want to review the 2024 presidential campaign and abortion. Want to uphold the 1849 state law prohibiting Both Kleefisch and Michels support the ban and the law, which Democratic Attorney General Josh Cole is challenging in court.

“I have a good record,” Evers said, citing the state’s 2.8 percent unemployment rate, increased funding for public schools, rural broadband access, an emphasis on road repairs and a 15 percent income tax cut. . “Let them bring him.”

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