Three of the GOP candidates for guv vowed to remove any district attorneys who refuse to prosecute violations of Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion ban after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade.
They also focused their sharpest barbs on wealthy construction exec Tim Michels, who skipped Monday night’s forum in Green Bay.
In the wake of Friday’s Supreme Court ruling, Gov. Tony Evers has vowed to grant clemency to anyone who violates the ban. Meanwhile, Dem AG Josh Kaul said he wouldn’t use Department of Justice resources to prosecute crimes related to the ban. And the DAs in Dane and Milwaukee counties have said they won’t enforce it.
Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and businessman Kevin Nicholson sought to expand the question to vow the removal of DAs who don’t meet their standards on other issues. Nicholson said he would fire any DAs that “participate in misconduct” such as refusing to charge offenders appropriately.
Kleefisch, meanwhile, added she’d remove those who refuse to prosecute election fraud. And state Rep. Tim Ramthun, R-Campbellsport, said allowing DAs to decline prosecutions for violations of the 173-year-old abortion ban would only encourage others to do the same.
“I will without question, without reservation and without hesitation terminate any and all people who violate state law, especially in this regard,” he said.
The forum, hosted by radio host Joe Giganti, allowed candidates time for rebuttal if a rival mentioned them by name. It only came into play when Nicholson knocked Kleefisch for being part of the administration that approved the Wisconsin Elections Commission. She responded that “mistakes were made and one of the marks of a leader is recognizing when something doesn’t work.” She again called for the abolishment of the agency.
Michels, who was invited to the forum, instead participated in a rally he sponsored in Lomira.
It was a running line during the forum.
Early in the debate, Kleefisch thanked “my opponents who bothered to show up tonight” before clearing her throat and drawing laughs.
Nicholson said if someone wants to serve as guv, they should let people know what they believe.
“If you ain’t here tonight in front of a moderator who wants a Republican to win in November, then you’re not prepared to go through what you have to go through to actually win in the general election,” he said.
Michels tweeted Monday night, “Some candidates think the path to victory is to tear other Republicans apart and divide the party. I’m a builder. I’m building a strong collation of voters from all across the state to beat Tony Evers, and that’s what I’m focused on. #LetsGetToWork.”
The three who participated in the debate said they opposed legalizing medical or recreational marijuana, would sign legislation to bar COVID-19 vaccine mandates and would prohibit gender reassignment surgery for minors.
But Ramthun was the only one who directly answered whether he believed the 2020 election was stolen from former President Trump.
After Giganti asked his question about the legitimacy of the 2020 election, he insisted the candidates begin their answers with a yes or no.
Kleefisch said the election was “rigged from the very beginning,” but was cut off by Giganti after she declined to answer yes or no. Nicholson said “illegal conduct occurred,” but cut himself off after he declined to start his answer as asked.
Ramthun, meanwhile, said “categorically, without exception, without question,” the election was stolen.
Reviews of the 2020 election by the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau and conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty found no widespread fraud in the 2020 election. Meanwhile, recounts of the results in Dane and Milwaukee counties found no significant discrepancies in the results of those heavily Dem areas, and Trump’s various legal efforts to overturn the results were rejected by state and federal courts.
Ahead of the debate, state Dem Party spokeswoman Hannah Menchhoff predicted the three people on the stage would compete to prove “who is the most radical to win over the GOP’s ultra-MAGA base” while knocking Michel’s empty podium.
“The dumpster fire GOP primary finally makes its way to the debate stage,” she said.