In a radio interview last week, Rebecca Kleefisch said she wants to dissolve the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission so voters have “one throat to choke” if they think an election was rigged.
Kleefisch’s violent rhetoric is fitting of her reputation as “Wisconsin’s Donald Trump.” According to a Reuters report, Trump’s Big Lie has triggered over 850 death threats and hostile messages sent to election officials since 2020.
Kevin Nicholson, Kleefisch’s GOP opponent, also supports eliminating the WEC, but called Kleefisch’s plan to use voting rights protections enshrined by Gov. Tony Evers to win the election, then strip them away, “dumb as a bag of hammers.”
“Rebecca Kleefisch wants to bring Donald Trump’s dangerous conspiracy theories and violent rhetoric to Wisconsin,” said DGA Senior Communications Advisor Christina Amestoy. “Republicans like Kleefisch and Kevin Nicholson who seek to undermine our bipartisan election workers are a threat to democracy and must be stopped.”
Read key excerpts from the article below:
The Republicans running for governor want to eliminate the state’s bipartisan elections agency, going further than their GOP colleagues who lead the Legislature.
Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch in a radio interview last week said she wants to dissolve the Wisconsin Elections Commission and hand over its duties to elected officials so voters have “one throat to choke” if something goes wrong.
Marine veteran Kevin Nicholson expressed a similar view days later when he announced his plan to take on Kleefisch in the Republican primary for governor. He painted Kleefisch as part of the GOP establishment that created the commission under former Gov. Scott Walker in 2015 and attacked her for calling on Republicans last fall to engage in “ballot harvesting” to beat Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.
“I would abolish WEC and I have said that,” Kleefisch said last week to radio host Joe Giganti on WTAQ-AM in Green Bay.
“They have been a lawless agency and they have completely disregarded statutes and the constitution. I think they have turned our elections into a circus. And so whether we choose to put it under the Legislature or the secretary of state’s office, elections in Wisconsin must have more authority for the voters so that they have essentially one throat to choke. They need to be able to bounce someone from office, whether it’s the secretary of state or their legislator if elections go wrong.”
Nicholson — who has called the state’s Republican infrastructure a broken political machine that loses too many elections — in an interview with WISN-AM host Dan O’Donnell called for eliminating the commission. He also railed against allowing political groups to pick up absentee ballots for others, a practice he disparaged as “ballot harvesting.”
“I do want to eliminate ballot harvesting,” Nicholson said. “I want the court to do it, but I want to do it legislative too so it’s basically locked in. And eliminate drop boxes and get rid of the WEC too — and I’m not one of the people who put it there in the first place.”
Kleefisch in November brought her own lawsuit directly with the state Supreme Court to try to ban ballot drop boxes. The justices have not said whether they will take her case and may deal with the issue entirely through the other case, which was brought by two suburban Milwaukee men with the assistance of the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.
Republicans in Wisconsin have largely opposed allowing groups to pick up ballots for voters. Kleefisch has said she wants to ban the practice but told a group of Republicans in October that she wants to engage in ballot harvesting this fall to help her win.
“Ballot harvesting in Wisconsin is not technically illegal,” Kleefisch said then. “Democrats do it nonstop and they go hard. Republicans must go harder.”
Nicholson responded at the time by saying anyone who supports ballot harvesting is “as dumb as a bag of hammers.” In rolling out his campaign last week, he again criticized her for her remarks about ballot harvesting.
“Republicans created this system, and it works — our last election was fair and secure, as was proven by a recount, our law enforcement agencies, and the courts,” said a written statement from Evers campaign spokesman Sam Roecker. “Rebecca Kleefisch and Kevin Nicholson just want to get rid of this bipartisan commission in order to stir up divisive political fights and to make sure fewer people can vote.”
Republican leaders in the Legislature have also stood by the Elections Commission, even as they seek to change some election laws.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu of Oostburg recently told the Associated Press they do not want to dissolve the Elections Commission.
“Yes, I’m frustrated with some of the things the commission has done over the last couple of years, but that doesn’t mean that blowing it up is the right thing to do unless you know what the alternative is,” LeMahieu told the AP in January.