Wisconsin GOP governor candidate says she would 'love' for school officials to be harassed

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Rebecca Kleefisch has falsely accused Wisconsin school officials of promoting 'critical race theory' in the classroom.

In recent comments, Wisconsin's former lieutenant governor said she would "love" for school board members to receive the same harassment she said she faced when she was in office.

Rebecca Kleefisch, who served as the state's lieutenant governor under Gov. Scott Walker from 2011 to 2019, is running in the state's Republican primary to unseat current Democratic Gov. Tony Evers next year.

"I would love for these folks to have gone through what Gov. Scott Walker and I went through during the recalls," Kleefisch said at a local GOP event on Oct. 11, according to audio obtained by American Bridge 21st Century. "The vuvuzelas and the drums, and the death threats, and the people who were showering inside the public restrooms, sleeping two-by-two in sleeping bags, banging on cars, threatening my children, spreading lies and intimidating us. Imagine if school board members felt something like that. Instead, all they feel is the pressure of their actual constituents asking them to do their job."

Republicans like Kleefisch have been defending the parents who are going to local school board meetings to complain about "critical race theory," which is not taught in schools but has become a blanket way for right-wing parents to express their grievances with schools teaching about structural racism in American history.

In addition to running her own campaign for governor, Kleefisch has been advocating for conservative school board candidates around the state. The New York Times recently reported that Kleefisch's political action committee, Rebecca Kleefisch PAC, has given money to roughly 30 school board candidates across Wisconsin.

At an event on Saturday, Kleefisch called for hiring Republican "mercenaries" to engage in "ballot harvesting," a disparaging term used to describe the legal practice of collecting absentee ballots on behalf of voters.

In audio obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Kleefisch told supporters not to leak audio of the event so that she could discuss campaign strategy.

"If you are recording, I don't want you to put this part online to share with Democrats, OK? It is about election strategy," Kleefisch said. "What I'm about to say may feel ugly to you guys."

"Democrats hire mercenaries," Kleefisch said. "Republicans rely on sweet little volunteers to do the exact same things. We must hire mercenaries."

"Ballot harvesting in Wisconsin is not technically illegal," Kleefisch said. "Democrats do it nonstop and they go hard. Republicans must go harder."

She continued, "We execute with excellence, we will beat them at their own game. And the next morning, we all wake up, take a shower with steel wool, and then, after swearing-in in January ... (the Legislature) is going to pass all these bills again, and then I'm going to sign them all. And we will never do elections like that again, but this is how we win."

Under U.S. elections law, a voter may designate someone to return an absentee ballot on their behalf. While the law is intended to expand voting rights to people who may not be able to physically vote in person, political operatives have manipulated the law to tamper with ballots. In 2018, a Republican political operative in North Carolina was accused of illegally collecting and tampering with absentee ballots.

Kleefisch has also refused to say whether, if elected governor, she would sign legislation that would give the Republican-controlled Legislature the power to overrule Wisconsin voters in future elections.

President Joe Biden won the state's 10 Electoral College votes in 2020. Biden's victory of just over 20,000 votes was pivotal to Democrats winning back the White House from Donald Trump.

In 2020, some Trump supporters advocated for state legislatures to merely appoint their own slates of Electoral College electors who would vote for Trump even if he lost their states in an effort to install him for a second term.

Kleefisch is currently the frontrunner in the Republican primary election for Wisconsin governor. The race is expected to be competitive, with a recent poll from September finding Evers and Kleefisch tied in the general election. For now, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report says the race leans Democratic.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.