Former Wisconsin lieutenant governor launches gubernatorial campaign

Former Wisconsin lieutenant governor launches gubernatorial campaign
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Former Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (R) on Thursday announced that she will run for governor in the Badger State next year, handing Republicans a prominent candidate in their effort to unseat Democratic Gov. Tony EversTony EversTrump pushing ex-Rep. Duffy to run for Wisconsin governor Nonprofit founder launches bid to replace Rep. Kind in Wisconsin Wisconsin governor apologizes for indigenous boarding schools MORE.

Kleefisch announced her campaign launch in an appearance on “Fox & Friends” on Thursday morning, hitting Evers over law enforcement and education standards.

“I am declaring my candidacy for governor of the great state of Wisconsin because I'm a mom who has two daughters that I just want to come back to Wisconsin and live their American dreams and one day raise their families. But they need safe streets; they need schools with actual education standards, and we need great-paying jobs. And unfortunately, our current governor, Tony Evers, has failed the people of Wisconsin,” she said.

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Kleefisch, who served as lieutenant governor during former Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) term from 2011-2019, also underscored those themes in her campaign launch video, touting hard-line stances on law enforcement and saying she would send troops from the Wisconsin National Guard to the southern border.

“One year ago, Kenosha burned while Tony Evers failed to lead,” she said, referencing demonstrations last year over police use of force. “As governor, I will fight for you. I’ll stand with law enforcement to keep your family and your neighborhood safe, hiring more cops and deploying police into high-crime areas.”

Kleefisch also hit on other conservative red meat issues, including touting “election security” and her plans to reopen schools shuttered during the pandemic and “ensure school choice.” 

Kleefisch enters a relatively open primary field and will likely boast high name recognition given her two times being elected statewide to be lieutenant governor. The only Republican to thus far declare a run is businessman Jonathan Wichmann.

Evers is a top target for Republicans. The current governor unseated Walker in 2018 by a narrow 1-point margin, making his seat in a key swing state a prominent pickup opportunity for the GOP.

Wisconsin has hosted several tight races in recent years, with former President TrumpDonald TrumpYoungkin ad features mother who pushed to have 'Beloved' banned from son's curriculum White House rejects latest Trump claim of executive privilege Democrats say GOP lawmakers implicated in Jan. 6 should be expelled MORE narrowly winning the state in 2016 and losing it in 2020 to President BidenJoe BidenOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Methane fee faces negotiations White House rejects latest Trump claim of executive privilege The No Surprises Act:  a bill long overdue MORE by a similarly small margin.

Democrats are expected to tie Kleefisch to Walker, who left office with underwater approval ratings.

“Rebecca Kleefisch would drag Wisconsin back to the era of Scott Walker, the last thing Wisconsinites need as they recover from the pandemic,” said Democratic Governors Association Executive Director Noam Lee.

“Gov. Tony Evers has been a steady, bipartisan leader and has always put science and common sense first with the pandemic, even as Republicans in the legislature fought to undermine him. We look forward to continuing to fight for a better Wisconsin with Gov. Evers in his second term.”

Cook Political Report rates the Wisconsin gubernatorial race as “Lean Democratic.”