Tag Archives: rebecca kleefisch

High-profile Wisconsinites drop out of Republican convention

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Michael Grebe, former chairman far-right Bradley Foundation, have been replaced as Wisconsin  delegates to the Republican convention in Cleveland later this month, the state GOP announced Friday.

The controversial Kleefisch and Grebe are being replaced by Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and longtime Republican activist Don Taylor.

They will serve among the 18 at-large delegates who are bound to vote for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the first round of balloting because

18 at-large delegates who are bound to vote for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the first round of balloting because Cruz won Wiscosin’s primary in April, which was considered then a near-fatal blow to Trump’s campaign.

Of Wisconsin’s 42 delegates, 36 are bound to vote for Cruz at the Republican convention until he releases them or fails to get a third of the vote at the July 18–21 event.

Fitzgerald has been outspoken in urging Republicans to unite behind presumptive nominee Donald Trump.

Kleefisch has said she will support whoever is the nominee. She withdrew as a delegate about a month ago due to scheduling conflicts, said her campaign manager Charles Nichols. Kleefisch will still attend the first three days of the convention, where she will participate in events as chair of the Republican Lieutenant Governors Association, Nichols said. After that she will return to Wisconsin late on July 20 for official state business, he said.

Grebe did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment. Wisconsin Republican Party spokesman Pat Garrett said he did not know why Grebe withdrew.

For the past 14 years, he’s served as chairman of the powerful and influential Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation based in Milwaukee. The $850 million conservative foundation has financially backed public policy experiments in Wisconsin like welfare reform, public vouchers for private schools and curbs on collective bargaining and unions.

Grebe is also a close confidante of Gov. Scott Walker, having previously served as his campaign chairman. Walker is going to the Republican convention as an at-large delegate, but he’s wavered in his support of Trump in recent weeks.

Four alternate delegates were also replaced. Those removed were Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, former Gov. Scott McCallum, former U.S. Rep. Mark Green and David Karst.

Steineke has been one of the most outspoken critics of Trump in Wisconsin. He had announced earlier this spring that he would not attend the convention given that Trump was the presumptive nominee.

They are being replaced by Trump supporter Van Mobley, Sue Lynch, David Anderson and Jennie Frederick.

Wisconsin taxpayers dole out $577,000 in overtime pay for Scott Walker’s security team

Taxpayers paid out more than $577,000 to nine current and former members of Gov. Scott Walker’s security team last year after a federal agency found the state had wrongly withheld overtime pay from them.

The payouts cover a period of time, from May 2013 to May 2015, when Walker frequently traveled for his presidential run, according to the State Patrol. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1WDIIUG ) reports that Walker’s campaign and political organizations paid the airfare and hotel costs of the security team during that time, but not the state troopers’ salaries.

State officials were forced to make the payments because the federal Department of Labor determined the State Patrol’s payment systems were flawed and had wrongly withheld overtime pay from the security team. It worked with the state to calculate what was owed over the two-year period it reviewed.

Four sergeants received the lion’s share in overtime payments, about $320,000 in all. Three others were paid between $62,000 and $66,000 each, one was paid about $55,000 and one was paid about $10,000.

Democratic state senator Jon Erpenbach said Walker had gotten carried away with security costs. He said he doesn’t hold the state troopers who protect Walker responsible for the big payouts.

“I think they have every penny coming to them because they were just following the governor’s orders,” Erpenbach said. “They didn’t do anything wrong. Governor Walker did.”

Members of the security team did not respond to requests for comment from the newspaper.

The team provides round-the-clock protection for Walker and occasional security for his family, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and visiting officials.

Walker now in last place after support slips to under 1 percent after debate

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has slipped from having the support of 5 percent of Republican voters to just .5 percent, according to a CNN/ORC poll. The poll lists him in last place among the 16 candidates.

Walker’s fall in the race for the Republican nomination was the largest of any of the 11 candidates who participated in the Sept. 16 CNN presidential debate at the Regan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

Conducted Sept. 17–19, the CNN/ORC poll has an error margin of 4.5 percentage points for Republican respondents.

Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina gained the most from the heavily watched debate, moving up from 3 percent to 15 percent to take second place in the race. Fifty-two percent of people who watched the debate named her as the winner.

Dr. Ben Carson, who formerly was running second to Trump, slipped to third place — from 19 percent to 14.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio jumped 8 points to grab the fourth place in the poll with 11 percent. Like Fiorina, he showed great skill as a debater and a commanding knowledge of foreign policy. Democrats say Rubio is the candidate they fear the most, due to his appealing youthful wholesomeness, polished presentational skills and strong personal narrative.

Donald Trump retained his frontrunner status following the debate, with his fans remaining loyal despite a performance in which he gave no substantive answers to policy questions and spoke mostly about his greatness and other candidates’ flaws, including Rand Paul’s physical appearance. Still, Trump lost 8 percentage points following the debate, falling from 32 percent earlier this month to 24 percent.

Unless Walker can turn around his downward trajectory, he likely won’t appear on the main stage in the third debate. During the past two debates, Fox News and CNN have held shorter and smaller debates preceding the main event in order to avoid preventing candidates with poor poll numbers from being excluded entirely. It’s unclear whether CNBC will do the same in the next debate, which it is hosting on Oct. 28 at the Coors Events Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

The third debate will be titled: “Your Money, Your Vote: The Presidential Debate on the Economy.” It will focus on the economy, jobs, taxes and the national deficit.

At the same time Walker has lost standing in the presidential race, his protracted state budget battle within his own party in June, combined with his long absences from the state to run for president, have eroded his popularity in Wisconsin. In a state poll taken by Marquette University School of Law following the budget battle, only 39 percent of Wisconsin voters said they approved of the job he was doing.

On Friday, a former Walker contributor said that the governor’s credibility in the state has dropped so low that Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch should be allowed to write the 2017–19 biennial budget.

Conservative calls on Scott Walker to step aside and let Kleefisch write the next budget

An influential Wisconsin conservative is calling on Gov. Scott Walker to step aside and allow Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch to write the state’s 2017–19 biennial budget. Walker’s term ends in 2019.

An opinion piece appearing in Right Wisconsin, an e-newsletter produced by influential right-wing political observer Charlie Sykes, argues that Walker is unlikely to run for a third term in 2018, while state Republicans who do run will have to contend with the 2017–19 budget hanging over their heads. The article underscores lingering internal divisions created by Walker’s battle with GOP lawmakers in creating the 2015–17 budget.

Preparing the next budget would be a “huge boost for Kleefisch in preparing for a possible GOP primary in 2018,” writes George Mitchell. “It would allow Kleefisch to work with Republican legislators in setting an agenda” that “could still exploit the important successes of Walker’s term without being weighed down by the baggage of more recent events.”

Mitchell, a leading advocate for voucher schools in Wisconsin, has been a substantial contributor to Walker’s campaigns since 2009.

“To put it mildly, Gov. Walker’s standing in Wisconsin politics is far removed from the heady days of June 2012 or even November 2014,” Mitchell observes. “Barring a stunning turn of events, a lame duck budget coming from his desk in early 2017 could become a free-for-all. The big loser would be Republicans running for election in 2018, starting at the top of the ticket.”

During Walker’s presidential run, Kleefisch has become increasingly more visible, often acting as an effective stand-in for the governor when he’s out of state. Once dismissed by Walker as a political lightweight, Kleefisch has emerged as a promising political contender.

Mitchell’s article goes so far as to suggest that the governor “could resign next year, either because he is the Republican presidential nominee or because he concludes that his days of political effectiveness in Wisconsin are over. “

Mitchell’s proposal comes at a time when Walker’s approval rating in the state has fallen below 40 percent for the first time and his presidential campaign has proven lackluster at best, embarrassing at worst.

Numerous flip-flops and gaffes, along with shallow debate performances, have toppled Walker’s standing by 15 points in Iowa, which holds the nation’s first political caucuses on Feb. 1, 2016. The surprising popularity of reality TV celebrity and real-estate tycoon Donald Trump has also been a major force in sucking the air out of Walker’s campaign and those of his competitors.

Winning Wisconsin’s neighboring state is essential to Walker’s campaign strategy.

Walker dismissed the importance of polls this early in the election cycle, noting that Ronald Reagan was “something like eight points (behind) six days before the (1980) presidential election” on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

“So for us, polls are going to go up, they’re gonna go down,” he said.

But maybe Walker can take heart from recent indicators indicating that Trump appears to have peaked. On a political prediction market run by CNN and Pivit, Trump’s odds of becoming the GOP presidential nominee tanked from 20 percent to 12 percent between the Sept. 16 debate’s start and its end, according to Politico.

Governor Kleefisch? | As Scott Walker goes presidential, Rebecca Kleefisch is emerging from the shadows of an administration that didn’t want her

EDITOR: The following is news analysis.

Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.

That name with that title prompts derisive chortles and exclamations of “God forbid” from progressive leaders.

Or outright dismissal. “The chances of (Kleefisch becoming governor) are infinitesimal,” said Scot Ross, executive director of the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now.

But with Scott Walker on the verge of mounting a vigorous campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, the prospect that Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor could write the next biennial budget is possible even if improbable. Walker might be a long shot for winning the nomination — and an even longer shot for winning the White House — but he might more conceivably wind up working in a Republican presidential administration.

And that, according to the state Constitution, would make Kleefisch the state’s chief executive.

Wisconsin knows little about how Kleefisch would govern. The lieutenant governor has no real constitutional duties except to fill in if the governor dies or becomes incapacitated, so Wisconsinites have had few opportunities to see her in action. The public tends to fill in the blanks with some of her more outrageous behavior, such as the 2010 radio interview in which she compared same-sex marriages to unions between humans and inanimate objects, including clocks and tables.

That statement drew national headlines and prompted her gay uncle Chris Pfauser to donate $500 to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett’s campaign against Walker. Speaking with reporters at the time, Pfauser blamed his niece’s anti-gay putdown on her newfound religious fundamentalism. (Pfauser did not respond to a message WiG left for him.)

By her own account, Christian orthodoxy guides Kleefisch’s life. Speaking to a tea party group during the 2010 campaign, she said, “My qualifications for a governor are a Christian man who can actually right our financial ship.” In a campaign flier, she pledged to make decisions by “relying on the wisdom and faith she has in Jesus.”

The rhetoric is identical to what Republicans in Iowa are hearing from Walker.

Given her record — or lack thereof — it would be easy to dismiss Kleefisch as a fringe character who landed in a do-nothing office on a fluke. But some people who are familiar with her maintain that she has developed more substance and proven more capable than detractors think.

‘Not worth the time’

Kleefisch turned down WiG’s request to be interviewed and declined to answer questions we emailed her. Instead, we relied on previously published statements and Capitol observers, including some who asked not to be identified, to look at her trajectory.

It’s well known that Kleefisch was not on Walker’s short list of running mates. Having never held either political office or a management position, she had little to recommend her for the role of governor-in-waiting. But she did have what proved to be the most important assets — the approval of Charlie Sykes, the king of Wisconsin right-wing radio, along with the state’s tea party and religious activists.

Walker wanted former state Rep. Brett Davis on his ticket, and he went to extreme lengths to push for it. Davis emerged as a central figure in the John Doe investigations that led to indictments of former staffers who served under the governor while he was Milwaukee County Executive.

In 2010, Davis’ home was among those raided by the FBI in connection with the investigation. He was not charged, however, and he was eventually repaid for his loyalty when he was appointed Medicaid director in Walker’s administration.

Walker operative Kelly Rindfleisch also preferred Davis, but she was not as lucky. She was sentenced to jail time after prosecutors charged her with illegally fundraising for Davis on taxpayer time via a secret Wi-Fi system in the county executive’s office. Emails that she and other Walker supporters traded about Kleefisch were confiscated and later shared with the media under the Freedom of Information Act.

“We are not touching anything to do with Kleefisch — she is radioactive and not worth the time,” wrote Walker campaign manager Keith Gilkes in an email that typifies the Walker camp’s attitude toward Kleefisch.

“I cannot see how anyone can take this woman seriously,” wrote one of Davis’ aides.

Walker’s county spokesperson referred to Kleefisch as “fluff,” and Rindfleisch wrote, “I can’t stand Becky.”

It’s not clear whether Kleefisch was aware of the disdain that Walker’s camp had for her prior to the email release. If not, it must have been a crushing blow.

It’s also unclear whether Walker’s people knew Kleefisch was battling Stage 2 colon cancer in August 2010, at the height of the campaign. At the same time she was campaigning tirelessly on behalf of the ticket and helping to win over women voters, Kleefisch was undergoing chemotherapy and fighting for her life.

In retrospect, it’s possible that some of her stranger public moments, the spacey ones that have drawn comparisons to former U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, might have been influenced by her medical condition.

Colorful couple

Many political insiders contend that Rebecca Kleefisch and her husband, state Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, are oddballs any way you look at them. Their policy positions are fundamentally the same — and the same as Walker’s: They’re for trickle-down economics, they’re opposed to marriage equality and choice and they hate “big” government, which appears to mean government agencies or contracts that do not employ or profit their family and friends. 

Rebecca Kleefisch frequently toes the party line that lowering taxes is the most reliable economic-growth strategy. When she meets with business groups, one of her go-to lines is, “How can we love you more?” — presumably expecting them to ask for tax breaks. 

Joel Kleefisch emphasizes the same talking point, but he tops his wife in the “colorful character” category. A man who’s met few animals he didn’t want to shoot, Kleefisch proposed a bill in 2012 to create a hunting season for sandhill cranes. “Many call (sandhill cranes) the rib-eye of the sky,” Kleefisch told the Wisconsin State Journal in pushing for supportive legislation. It died in committee but has since resurfaced.

Joel Kleefisch often appears at the Capitol wearing various articles of camo clothing. Democratic strategist Patrick Guarasci said that during his time working in Madison, he and others viewed the Kleefisches as whackos.

In addition to hunting, Kleefisch was obsessed with sex offenders, according to Guarasci. “He fashioned himself as an expert on the subject,” Guarasci said. “He was always trying to come up with stricter and stricter rules for the placement of sex offenders.”

One of his proposals was to force sex offenders to drive with chartreuse license plates on their cars for easy identification, Guarasci remembered.

More recently, Joel Kleefisch landed in hot water after records surfaced showing that he’d allowed one of his wealthy donors to help him draft a bill that would have substantially reduced the donor’s child support payments.

Ross criticized Rebecca Kleefisch for never commenting on her husband’s behavior.

Like his wife, Joel Kleefisch is a former broadcast news reporter. But otherwise, they make for a rather odd couple, which is obvious just seeing them together. She’s fastidiously groomed, while he’s a rather slouchy man who treats hunting garb as formal wear (see photo). 

In her early and inexperienced days, Kleefisch had to rely on physical style over substance. She didn’t have time to develop the kind of inside knowledge and engaging political persona that Walker has perfected. So she used the familiar newscasters’ tools — heavy makeup and reading words written by someone else.

The results were poor but largely overlooked by voters. An insider who asked not to be identified said people working on her 2010 campaign considered her “like a political android. She was wooden and had no substance. It was just all talking points.”

The Walker administration didn’t help her much. Campaign advisers seemed determined to keep her away from the press and the Walker administration initially kept her under wraps. Walker never made a campaign commercial with Kleefisch.

But she seems to be proving more capable and determined than her detractors had figured.

Growing into the role

Despite not having specified constitutional duties, Kleefisch has managed to carve out a role for herself in the Walker administration as “the marketing guy.” 

That’s how she described herself to the Wisconsin State Journal in a recent interview. She’s lived up to the title, reaching out to recruit businesses from other states, attending new business openings throughout the state and even participating in an important trade mission to China.

Today, Kleefisch seems to fit smoothly in Walker’s groove. She’s not basking in the spotlight, but she’s clearly in the loop and acting as an effective surrogate for Walker at local events as he ramps up his White House run.

Demonstrating how much her status within the Walker administration has advanced, Kleefisch toured the state last fall with Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Revenue Rick Chandler to host listening sessions on tax reform in advance of the 2015–17 biennial budget. 

“That was something that some of us looked at and thought, ‘This is kind of an attempt to give her a kind of a role,’” said Collin Roth, editor of Right Wisconsin, a conservative news and opinion website. “I thought that was something (that positioned her) more in a substantive policy realm.”

Even Democrats were impressed with her appearance in January at a groundbreaking event for a Walnut Way Conservation Corp. project in Milwaukee. She demonstrated far more polished retail political skills than she possessed in 2010, generating some positive buzz.

“I’ve been very impressed with how far she’s come in the past few years,” Roth said. “I think she’s proven herself capable and up to the task. If you look around, she makes some of these short lists of rising stars. I very much think she is a frontrunner — if not the frontrunner — in 2018.”

Walker administration Secretary Mike Huebsch told the Wisconsin State Journal that he’s seen Kleefisch go from sitting quietly at meetings to asking questions to participating in policy discussions about transportation, Medicaid and taxes. Her former political rival Brett Davis also praised her, telling WSJ that she’s “really grown into the role.”

Kleefisch has begun to stake out opinions of her own. In a March radio interview with Sykes, she acknowledged that states developing clean, renewable energy sources have a “competitive advantage” over states like Wisconsin that don’t.

“When I’m talking to my colleagues in the National Lieutenant Governors Association and they have already gotten online to different (carbon emissions) standards than what is traditional in our state, all of a sudden they have a competitive advantage,” Kleefisch said.

The Walker administration seems to have done everything in its power to discourage if not outright halt wind and solar projects in the state. Critics charge that his anti-renewable position is a way of supporting Koch Industries and other fossil fuel businesses that have contributed heavily to his campaigns.

Whether Kleefisch’s statement on clean energy was a faux pas or an indication of forward thinking on her part remains to be seen. But it’s clear she’s used her three campaigns and four years in office to develop a knowledge base of the issues as well as communication skills.

Roth said people who have tuned out Kleefisch are going to be surprised as they become more familiar with her in coming months. There’s more to her than has met their eyes so far, he says.

Even Guarasci concedes: “I would not be surprised if I’ve underestimated her.”

Ultimately, Kleefisch’s positions are as out-of-synch with the progressive agenda as Walker’s. She’s a religious conservative who still believes that tax breaks for the rich will create jobs. Her focus would likely be on reducing government regulations,  privatization of government functions and selling off the state’s natural resources.

But she’s not the punch line that progressives think she is. She’s proven to be tenacious, committed and a fast learner. Liberals dismiss her at their own peril.

Scott Walker’s security costs are triple those of his predecessor

Security costs last year for Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch totaled more than three times what it cost to protect Walker’s Democratic predecessor in 2010, according to records released to The Associated Press.

Walker provided the security detail costs in response to an open records request. They came a day after his political committee Our American Revival said it would pick up the tab for Walker’s security detail when it travels with him to purely political events, such as a gathering of likely Republican presidential candidates this weekend in Iowa.

Walker has been traveling the country — and the world — in advance of an all-but-certain 2016 presidential bid. That has generated criticism from Wisconsin taxpayers.

The numbers show that in 2014, when Walker was traveling throughout Wisconsin while running for re-election, security costs for him, first lady Tonette Walker and Kleefisch totaled $2.3 million. That was up 47 percent from Walker’s first year in office, when costs were nearly $1.6 million.

The 2011 costs were more than double what it took to protect Walker’s predecessor Jim Doyle in 2010, before the lieutenant governor also had protection. That year, taxpayers spent $657,000 on security for Doyle.

Security costs for Walker were more than quadrupled since 2009.

“He’s buying an entourage and the taxpayers are paying for it,” said Democratic state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, of Middleton.

Walker administration spokesman Cullen Werwie had no comment on the increase in security costs.

The numbers indicate the security detail has grown under Walker. In 2010, salary costs for security were $346,000. Last year, they were nearly $1.2 million.

Walker faced death threats in 2011 when he proposed effectively ending collective bargaining for most public workers. He bolstered security as up to 100,000 people protested at the Capitol.

Extra security was justifiable then, Erpenbach said, but not now.

“It’s a huge waste of taxpayer money,” he said.

As an indicator of how much Walker is traveling outside of the state, expenses related to out-of-state lodging and other costs for his security detail were $89,400 in 2014, more than double the $36,100 spent in Doyle’s last year in office.

By law, Walker must reimburse the state for the use of state vehicles for campaign purposes. His campaign has reimbursed the state nearly $97,000 since taking office, Werwie said.

Our American Revival, Walker’s tax-exempt political committee, said it would reimburse taxpayers for expenses related to his security detail for political trips. But that committee was formed this year, so it won’t be paying for any of the $2.3 million spent in 2014.

Wisconsin Republicans unfazed with governor’s lack of commitment

Scott Walker isn’t saying whether he’d serve a full second term as governor but delegates at the Wisconsin GOP’s annual convention Saturday didn’t care, giving their hero a wild standing ovation as he took the stage.

Walker is trying to win a second four-year term and will likely face Democrat Mary Burke, a former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive and state commerce secretary, in the November election.

But the governor also is pondering a 2016 presidential bid after his law stripping public employees’ union rights and his victory in an ensuing recall attempt transformed him into a national conservative star.

Time magazine last month named the polarizing politician one of the 100 most influential people of 2014.

The presidential race would fall in the middle of Walker’s second term. And he won’t say whether he’d finish the stint in Wisconsin.

If he left before he finished his term in Madison, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch would inherit the office. The former TV news anchor survived a recall attempt alongside Walker but her office carries no real responsibilities and she’s largely untested as a policymaker. She also was criticized in 2010 for saying that extending benefits to same-sex couples could lead to people marrying dogs and furniture.

Marinette County GOP chairwoman Shirley Kaufman said she’d like to hear the governor commit to a full second term.

“I do believe you have to make a commitment to serve out your whole term,” Kaufman said in a telephone interview ahead of the convention. “I’d like to see our man stay in Wisconsin and be our governor. I would like to hear him commit. But I know many people would not like to hear that. He probably would make a very good president. But I’m worried about our state.”

There was little buzz about a possible Walker presidential bid at the convention. Delegates sprang to their feet and whooped as the governor took the stage to strains of Brooks & Dunn’s “Only in America.”

He made no mention of running for president, focusing instead on whipping up support for another gubernatorial term.

Wisconsin Democratic Party spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said in a statement that Kleefisch is underqualified and questioned how Republicans could be comfortable with her becoming governor.

Delegate Shaun Melarvie of Sturgeon Bay said over the weekend that Walker’s lack commitment doesn’t bother him at all.

“It’s not important to me,” Melarvie said. “If (his term) lasts two years, I’m sure the lieutenant governor or whoever replaces him will continue his policies. The smart thing is to be noncommittal. His opponents will simply use that against him.”

Eau Claire County GOP chairman Mike Conlin said in a telephone interview before the convention that Walker deserves a pass for not committing to a full term when he’s clearly a serious presidential contender.

“I think he’d be a fool to (publicly commit to a full term),” Conlin said. “The only way he could make a commitment is if he absolutely has no plans of running for the presidency. If he decides to step up as president he’ll still be serving Wisconsin. He’ll just be serving 49 other states, too. It’s not like he’s ditching his job.”


Pro-gay protesters greet Kleefisch in Waukesha

kleefisch-protestOne week before Election Day, Rebecca Kleefisch made a rare and brief public appearance at UW – Waukesha, where she was greeted by students protesting her anti-gay statements.

A demonstration organized by the campus group Pride Alliance brought about 30 protesters together in front of the building where Kleefisch was scheduled to address a student Republican group on Oct. 26. The students, many of them carrying signs, spoke with a Fox6 reporter as the lieutenant gubernatorial candidate was whisked secretly into the building through a back door, according to Pride Alliance co-president Jessica Bemi.

Kyle Callen told the Fox reporter that the protest was called in response to the way Kleefisch is “perpetuating the idea that it’s not OK to be gay.”

“The last thing we need right now is a lieutenant governor who takes an openly hateful stance toward a group of people,” student Dee Landers said.

The protesters regrouped in a room where Kleefisch spoke for about 15 minutes. They stood silently against a back wall, their numbers nearly equal to those of Kleefisch’s supporters, Bemi said.

After winning the Republican primary in September, Kleefisch has been kept so far out of sight that AP photographers have been unable to get a single picture of her during the campaign. She’s refused to debate her Democratic opponent Tom Nelson or to appear at any public events. Editorial boards throughout the state have condemned her strategy of invisibility.

But Kleefisch, a former TV news anchor, has made a few media appearances. Discussing her evangelical Christian agenda with a right-wing radio host, she said that allowing people of the same gender to marry is identical to allowing people to marry clocks, tables or dogs.  

Several UW – Waukesha protesters carried signs referencing that remark, including one held by a young man that read, “What if it’s a female table?”

During her talk on campus, Kleefisch said the controversial statement was taken out of context. “I was talking about a slippery slope and what we would have to do in legislation to define and redefine what marriage is,” she told students. “If I sounded insensitive, that’s wrong.”

Kleefisch also tried to distance herself from the remark during an appearance on “Real Milwaukee,” where she said same-sex marriage would be a “fiscal back-breaker,” because it would require the state to pay health benefits to the spouses of gay and lesbian employees.

But Wisconsin already offers such benefits, as do many of the state’s major employers, including M&I Bank, the state’s largest financial institution. The costs are reportedly minimal – only 1 to 2 percent of overall benefit costs.

Other states that have adopted same-sex marriage have conducted studies showing that the policy has been an economic boon due to the money spent on weddings.

In addition to protesting Kleefisch’s appearance, Pride Alliance is planning to hold public vigils on campus for every gay youth who commits suicide, Bemi said. She said Pride Alliance is the second largest student group at UW – Waukesha, behind the Campus Crusade for Christ.

Rebecca Kleefisch, the Republican nominee for Wisconsin lieutenant governor, speaking about same-sex marriage on WVCY.

“At what point would we allow marrying inanimate objects? Could I marry this table or this clock? How about a dog? This is ridiculous. Biblically, again … marriage is between one man and one woman.”

Rebecca Kleefisch, the Republican nominee for Wisconsin lieutenant governor, speaking about same-sex marriage on WVCY.