1-on-1 with former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch on possible run for governor

Posted at 6:28 PM, Jun 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-24 19:28:55-04

Republicans will gather this weekend for their annual state convention.

At the top of their agenda: trying to reverse sweeping statewide wins by Democrats in 2018 and 2020.

Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch sure sounds like she's interested in running for governor as she holds listening sessions around the state, getting feedback from voters.

"Why won't Gov. Tony Evers end this $300 booster on top of unemployment insurance, so our small business owners can get back to recovery and Wisconsinites can get back to normal," said Kleefisch in an interview with TMJ4 News.

Wisconsin's unemployment rate is close to pre-pandemic levels. At 3.9%, it is among the lowest in the Midwest and almost two points lower than the national average.

The state's unemployment rate fell to record lows in 2018, below 3% in the final year of former Gov. Scott Walker administration.

TMJ4's Charles Benson Benson: "You bring up Gov. Evers, and you often tweet about Gov. Evers, it sounds like someone wants to run for governor. Are you?"

Rebecca Kleefisch: "Well, I think right now you've noticed my focus is on the 1848 Project. I honestly believe that the best policy is dictated to the government by the people, and not the other way around."

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The 1848 Project is the nonprofit advocacy organization she started to talk about conservative issues. Kleefisch says she'll make her political intentions clear for 2022 later this year.

If she does run, education will be a key issue after the pandemic divided parents and schools over virtual versus in-person classes.

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Benson: "Do you think it should have been up to parents to decide how their children should have been educated during the pandemic?"

Kleefisch: "It should be up to parents how their children are educated, period. There is a great movement among parents today for the education dollars to follow the child, rather than the education dollars funding buildings and administrative costs. We need to fund education."

The lieutenant governor's job has no voting or executive powers, but serves on commissions or boards at the governor's request.

Look for Kleefisch to lean on the Walker administration's record when talking about economic issues.

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"We need to incentivize work, but we also need to make sure that people have the way to get to work," said Kleefisch. "We also need to make sure that people have the childcare they need in order to be free enough to go to work, and that's some of the stuff that we were doing toward the end of the Walker-Kleefisch administration."

While Republicans have held on to their control of the legislature, only one conservative-backed candidate, Justice Brian Hagedorn, has won a statewide race since 2016.

Democrats have been on a winning streak, including beating Walker and Kleefisch by 1.1% in 2018.

Gov. Evers told TMJ4's Charles Bensonearlier this month he's running for re-election next year.

Under Evers' administration, "Schools have reopened safely, small businesses are receiving the support they need, and communities are coming back," said Kayla Anderson, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin's Rapid Response Director. "If Rebecca Kleefisch was actually concerned about Wisconsin schools, she would call on Republicans in the legislature to fund schools by passing Gov. Evers' Badger Bounceback agenda."

The only declared Republican candidate for governor is Jonathan Wichman.

Other potential GOP candidates include former U.S. Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson, former Commerce Secretary Bill McCoshen and Congressman Mike Gallagher.

Quick facts on Rebecca Kleefisch:

  • UW-Madison graduate
  • Elected as lieutenant governor in 2010
  • First lieutenant governor in U.S. history to survive a recall, in 2012
  • Colon cancer survivor
  • Husband is former State Representative Joel Kleefisch
  • Former Milwaukee TV reporter

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