State Watch

Wisconsin state GOP lawmaker calls for party to ‘cheat like Democrats’ to win elections

A GOP lawmaker in Wisconsin was secretly caught on video threatening to punch the state’s governor and arguing Republicans need to “cheat like the Democrats” if the party wants to win future elections.

In a 27-minute video posted Thursday on Youtube, Rep. Elijah Behnke, who took office last April, appears to be speaking to a group of visitors somewhere in the capitol building in Madison.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported the news and quoted Wisconsin Democratic Party chair Ben Wikler as saying Behnke should be removed from the caucus and stripped of committee assignments for his comments.

“Behnke’s suggestion that Republicans should cheat in elections, while on taxpayer-funded time inside the Capitol, appears on its face to constitute illegal electioneering while serving in an official capacity,” he said, calling it “a disturbing encouragement of further illegal behavior.”

Behnke — who appears to be unaware the user who posted the video was secretly recording the conversation — at one point tells the group he “believes there was fraud” in the 2020 presidential election.

The group discusses a forensic audit of the election, and Behnke said he was now encouraging people to cheat in future elections, despite receiving pushback on the idea from others in the group.

“You’d love for no fraud to exist, but it’s not going to ever happen. There’s always going to be someone that tries to cheat,” he said. “So I’m encouraging people that have the passion and power to be here, the grassroots, to cheat like the Democrats.”

Former President Trump regularly claims he lost the 2020 election because of widespread fraud, but there has been no evidence to support the allegations. The claims have still caught on with large swathes of GOP voters, making it difficult for some Republican officeholders to speak out.

Wisconsin is a swing state that Biden won by more than 20,000 votes. The Associated Press completed its own investigation last year showing there was only 31 instances of fraud in Wisconsin and only 475 cases in all six battleground states.

Behnke, however, says he was convinced of fraud, and said some of his Republican colleagues approve of a full election audit in Wisconsin. But the GOP lawmaker said he wasn’t sure if enough lawmakers would vote to pass the measure.

In the video, Behnke also threatened to punch Gov. Tony Evers (D) because he was upset about the governor’s COVID-19 restrictions in the early days of the pandemic.

“I was so pissed off. Like Tony Evers, I was praying to God if I get to see him, I’m going to punch him,” he said. “I haven’t seen him face-to-face yet, so we’ll see if I do.”

While Wisconsin has a Democratic governor, Republicans dominate the state legislature. Behnke, a small business owner, won a special election last year to represent Wisconsin’s 89th District.

He told Spectrum News after the election he was somewhat surprised he had become a politician.

“I never thought I’d be a public servant because I never wanted to be a politician,” Behnke said, according to the outlet. “They’re kind of known like some lawyers to be a little slimy and two-faced and speak out of both sides of their mouth, and I never wanted that job.”

State Watch