By SCOTT BAUER – Associated Press
PEWAUKEE, Wis. (AP) – Former Vice President Mike Pence campaigned Wednesday with his Republican primary pick for Wisconsin governor on the battlefield, calling Rebecca Kleefisch a “proven conservative” as she takes on an opponent endorsed by Donald Trump.
Trump plans to hold a Friday rally for Tim Michels a few miles from where Pence appeared for Kleefisch in conservative Waukesha County, a suburb of Milwaukee that has long been key for Republicans.
Pence, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, appeared with former Gov. Scott Walker. Kleefisch served as Walker’s lieutenant governor for eight years, and Pence and Walker have been close political allies for years.
“There is no gubernatorial candidate in America who is more capable, more experienced, or more conservative than Rebecca Kleefisch,” Pence said. “Your next governor has to be a proven conservative who has defended Wisconsin in the past and that’s Rebecca Kleefisch.
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Pence’s visit comes in a sprint leading up to Tuesday’s primary. The winner will step forward to face Democratic Governor Tony Evers, in what is expected to be one of the most hotly contested gubernatorial races in the nation this year.
The latest Marquette Law School poll, released in late June, showed Kleefisch and Michels roughly tied, with state Rep. Tim Ramthun trailing by more than 20 points. Ramthun’s central problem is to decertify President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in Wisconsin, which is unconstitutional.
Kleefisch and Michels both present themselves as tough candidates for crime. Kleefisch is approved by most state sheriffs, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Milwaukee Police Association. She calls for hiring 1,000 more police officers, instituting minimum bail for violent criminals and adding more police to schools. She and Michels have pledged to fire Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, a target of Republican criticism, on their first day in office.
Kleefisch told the gathered police on Wednesday that she was committed to making sure they had the necessary funding to do their job.
“I will support the badge,” she said to cheers from many law enforcement officers and others.
Wisconsin is the third state where Pence and Trump have endorsed different candidates in the Republican gubernatorial primaries. A sin Georgia and Arizonathe Wisconsin battleground race highlights deep divisions between Republicans and the future of the party.
Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 before losing in 2020 by nearly the same number of votes. He repeatedly called for those results to be decertified, and on Tuesday endorsed a little-known main challenger to declare the President of the Assembly, Robin Vos. This challenger, Adam Steen, supports decertification while Vos does not.
Michels has been inconsistent in his views on decertification. He said in a debate last week that it was not a priority, but at a town hall on Monday he said “everything will be on the table”. Kleefisch said she opposed decertification because it was “not constitutionally possible.”
Michels would also not commit to supporting a Trump presidential run in 2024, but later reversed himself less than 24 hours later.
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