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EXCLUSIVE – Former Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch on Thursday formally announced her 2022 campaign for governor, launching a Republican challenge against Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.
In a video announcement shared first nationally with Fox News, Kleefisch charged that “Tony Evers’ entire term has been marked by failure and weakness.”
“One year ago Kenosha burned while Tony Evers failed to lead,” the former lieutenant governor claimed at the top of her video.
Walking down a Kenosha, Wisconsin, street where some businesses remain boarded up, Kleefisch argued that “lives were lost and small businesses were burned because our governor sided with rioters instead of the people of this community.”
Kenosha, a city in southeastern Wisconsin, grabbed national attention in August of last year after Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot by police, sparking violent street protests including the looting of stores and the burning of buildings. In the following weeks, both then-President Trump and now-President Biden made separate campaign stops in Kenosha, which became a flashpoint during a spring and summer rocked by protests and violence from coast to coast over police brutality against minorities and the nation’s history of racial inequity.
Kleefisch, who served eight years as Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor in former GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s administration, vowed that “as governor I will fight for you. I’ll stand with law enforcement to keep your family and your neighborhood safe, hiring more cops and deploying police into high crime areas.”
In an exclusive interview with Fox News, Kleefisch noted that “I did 50 listening sessions across the state of Wisconsin this year and what I heard from the hard working people of this state is that they want safer streets. That is not extreme. This is regular families wanting reasonable expectations.”
Kleefisch charged Evers with “weak leadership” in his handling of the COVID crisis, boosting an economy severely deflated by the coronavirus pandemic, and on “getting kids back in school and preventing a year and a half of learning loss.”
“This is going to be a theme,” she emphasized. “Tony Evers is a weak leader and Wisconsin deserves better.”
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers awaits to address the virtual Democratic National Convention, at the Wisconsin Center on August 19, 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Melina Mara – Pool/Getty Images)
(Melina Mara – Pool/Getty Images)
In her video, Kleefish also criticized the Democratic governor for what she claimed was his “caving to special interests and liberal extremists.” And she vowed to “ban sanctuary cities and deploy our national guardsmen to help secure the southern border and fight to keep our elections safe and secure so you know your vote counts.”
Evers, a former school teacher and administrator who won election for three terms as Wisconsin’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, narrowly defeated Walker in 2018 as the Republican incumbent ran for reelection to a third straight term as governor.
The campaign launch by Kleefisch, a former reporter and TV anchor who was a first time politician when she successfully ran for lieutenant governor in 2010, was no surprise in Wisconsin. Last week she filed paperwork to run for governor with the state’s Ethics Commission and earlier this week sent a notice to supporters that she’d be making a “special announcement.”
After a Thursday morning national interview on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends,” Kleefisch was set to hold a kick-off event in Waukesha County, followed by a statewide campaign swing over the coming days.
“We’re really leaving no stone unturned,” she said. “I want to seek out every heart and every mind because I don’t think it’s going to be enough to simply say vote against Tony Evers, he failed, even though he has. I think that we will also make our claim by saying vote for us, we have better ideas and a much more aspirational vision for this state.”
That’s not a sentiment shared by Wisconsin Democrats.
Last week, after a non-profit advocacy group launched last year by Kleefisch unveiled its conservative policy agenda for the state, Wisconsin Democratic Party chair Ben Wikler argued that “radical Rebecca Kleefisch’s self-described policy ‘manifesto’ doubles down on the disastrous far-right agenda that deeply hurt Wisconsinites under the Walker-Kleefisch administration.”
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