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Wisconsin GOP gubernatorial candidates don't commit to supporting Trump in 2024

Republican candidates for Wisconsin governor
Courtesy WISN-TV
Gubernatorial hopefuls Rebecca Kleefisch (standing), Tim Ramthun, and Tim Michels participated in a WISN-TV town hall with voters.

In one week, Wisconsin voters will choose which Republican candidate should run against Democrat Tony Evers for governor.

Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, state Rep. Tim Ramthun, and business executive Tim Michels are the top candidates. They answered voter questions at a WISN-TV town hall in Milwaukee Monday.

All three of the candidates reportedly sought the endorsement of former President Donald Trump. But when asked whether they would support him for president in 2024, none made a commitment.

"I’m focused on this election right now," said Tim Michels, who is endorsed by Trump. "I’ve made no commitments to any candidates in 2024. What I am focusing on is beating Tony Evers."

Rebecca Kleefisch, who is endorsed by former Vice President Mike Pence, said she would support whoever is the Republican nominee in 2024. "Most important to me is that we retire Joe Biden," she said. "Because Joe Biden has led our country into recession."

Tim Ramthun denied that he even asked for Trump’s endorsement. "He contacted me in November of 2021, and again in December 2021 at my home, and we spoke, and he talked about endorsement," he said. "And I said, 'Don’t want to go there.'"

Ramthun said instead of endorsements, he was focused on decertifying Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential election results — something Trump continues to rally for since the state went for Biden.

On the decertification question, Kleefisch was clear. "No," she said. "It’s not constitutionally possible. You talk to any constitutional attorney and you consult our constitutional statute and you’ll see there’s no path to decertifying an election that’s already happened."

Kleefisch did say said she would disband the Wisconsin Elections Commission, the bipartisan agency that oversees elections in the state.

Michels didn’t say one way or the other whether he would decertify Biden’s win in Wisconsin. "When I’m sworn in, in January — that’s eight months from now — I will look at all the evidence and everything will be on the table," he said. "I’ll make the right decision."

On many other issues, the gubernatorial candidates agreed. One voter asked them about guns and domestic violence. In July, six women were killed in a two-week period in Milwaukee County in acts of apparent domestic violence.

Instead of guns, Kleefisch said lenient district attorneys and judges are the problem. "So we’re going to have to tie their hands by doing both bail and sentencing reform," she said. "And that way, you’re going to have mandatory minimums for both bail and sentencing so bad judges and bad district attorneys aren not letting criminals with rap sheets a mile long back onto the streets."

Michels and Ramthun also billed themselves as Second Amendment advocates, saying they would not support gun regulations like red flag laws. Those laws allow police to take someone’s guns temporarily if they think the person is a threat to others or themselves.

"Red flag laws are red flags to me," Ramthun said. "It’s the beginning of the confiscation element that would take away our Second Amendment right and would open the door for additional tyrannies."

"Guns haven’t changed, society has changed," Michels said. "I want to make sure law-abiding gun owners aren’t having their guns confiscated because an angry ex makes a complaint. 'Oh, he made a threat to me,' and then the police have to confiscate his guns."

All the candidates said they would support law enforcement to get the “bad guys” with guns off the streets. That’s something they say their rival, Tony Evers, hasn’t done.

The primary election is Aug. 9.

Editor's note: The candidate audio in this report is courtesy of WISN-TV Milwaukee.

Emily is an editor and project leader for WUWM.
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