Former Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, Director of Pipeline Construction Tim Michels and State Representative Tim Ramthun met on stage for the first time Sunday in a televised debate just days before the start of the vote to decide which candidate will be the Republican nominee against Democratic incumbent Tony Evers this fall.
The debate at Marquette University’s Varsity Theater marked the first time Michels has answered questions in a public forum of candidates since entering the race in April and rising to the top of the pack after spending $8 million in his own money for his campaign.
In the latest Marquette University Law School poll, Michels was the most popular among respondents, but only a full percentage point ahead of Kleefisch, well within the poll’s margin of error. Ramthun came third in the June poll. A fourth candidate, Kevin Nicholson, dropped out of the race earlier this month.
But most Republicans polled still hadn’t made up their minds, underscoring the close race Kleefisch and Michels find themselves in as they met on the debate stage on Sunday. A primary on Aug. 9 will determine who Evers faces in the November general election.
Here are seven takeaways from Sunday’s debate:
All three candidates reported or promised to implement paid family leave
Michels said he would sign a bill requiring employers to provide paid parental leave while Kleefisch and Ramthun signaled they support the idea — one of the few policies that Evers and the Republican presidential candidates say governorship, should become law.
“We need to make sure everyone who is looking for a job has the opportunity to get a job. That’s how you get the best health care you can get – get a job,” Michels said. “I will support health care and leave for mothers and fathers.”
Kleefisch said part of building the state’s workforce is making sure “moms and dads have time to bond with their babies.”
“It’s absolutely something I would consider as governor,” she said.
Ramthun said paid family leave would help prevent behavior problems later in a child’s life that could lead to more crime.
“I think when we want to solve societal problems, they start at home,” Ramthun said. “When you allow both parents to bond with their kids…and build that family and make it strong, you’ll have less trouble down the road if we do that from the start.”
Tim Michels came across the DACA issue
Michels offered incentives for Wisconsin children to get them to college and also ran a television ad promising no public benefits for undocumented immigrants.
But when asked by moderator Charles Benson of WTMJ-TV (Channel 4) whether these incentives would be available to DACA students or students who came to the United States as children and are known as “dreamers,” Michels said. seemed to have trouble understanding. what kind of students the question was referring to.
Michels’ campaign manager Patrick McNulty later said that many questions were asked during the 60 Minutes debate and that Michels “absolutely” knows what DACA is.
“The immigration issue is not about how we get DACA students to dual enrollment, it’s on the southern border and Joe Biden is neglecting it,” McNulty said.
Kleefisch campaign chairman Scott Neitzel said, “I think everyone’s seen what they’ve seen, and Rebecca knows what DACA is. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.”
Kleefisch points out that abortion procedure used for miscarriages is not part of state abortion ban
Abortions have stopped in Wisconsin since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, reinstating a pre-Civil War law that prohibited abortions unless the mother’s life was in danger.
Since that decision, confusion has grown over whether abortion procedures or medication can be performed or administered when a woman has a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy – leading to life-threatening and women’s health at risk, according to a recent Washington Post report.
Kleefisch signaled Sunday that she does not consider such procedures to be prohibited by the state abortion ban.
“Let me be very clear here. Miscarriage care and treatment for ectopic pregnancy is not abortion,” Kleefisch said.
Kleefisch, Michels and Ramthun also all said they support the state abortion ban and that they will not sign into law any new exceptions, including allowing abortion for raped women.
After:Rebecca Kleefisch raises $3.6 million this year in the race for governor, a record for non-incumbents but behind Evers
After:Suburban Milwaukee’s dominance in Republican primaries will be tested in August
Surprisingly, gasoline prices have not increased
Surprisingly, none of the candidates brought up gas prices despite the scrutiny Republicans have given the administrations of Evers and President Joe Biden due to the rising cost of driving a car.
Gas prices have also emerged as a flashpoint between GOP primary race favorites Kleefisch and Michels.
Kleefisch filmed TV ads, including one with former Gov. Scott Walker, accusing Michels of pushing to raise the state’s gas tax because of his ties to groups that have advocated raising the tax on gasoline in the state and elsewhere.
Michels said Kleefisch’s ads were fake and he didn’t support raising the gas tax. He said he would implement a gasoline tax exemption, repeal a state law that prevents retailers from selling gasoline below cost, and oppose tying the gasoline tax to inflation.
Gasoline prices hit record highs in Wisconsin at the start of the summer, but have fallen in recent weeks.
Michels reports too much money being spent on K-12
The 2018 gubernatorial race was contested over education issues and after a statewide poll showed much of the electorate believed their schools weren’t getting enough funding and would support raising their own taxes to get more money for classrooms.
Now, in 2022, Michels is signaling he will cut K-12 spending if elected.
Asked about his budget priorities, Michels included making sure there’s education reform in Wisconsin and suggested it’s “the definition of insanity” to spend more money on education. .
“There is no greater investment in future generations in Wisconsin, the problem is that we already spend so much money on education,” Michels said. “It’s been the solution for 10, 20 or 30 years. More money for education.
The MPS is heading for a break under these candidates
Republican lawmakers passed a bill earlier this year to divide Milwaukee public schools into smaller districts — an idea Evers vetoed but remains alive under Kleefisch, Michels and Ramthun.
All three candidates used the question to jump at the chance to criticize the state’s largest school district.
“If MPS was a company it would be bankrupt, it completely and completely fails the students of Milwaukee,” Michels said.
He was followed by Kleefisch who said it was her brainchild to break up the district – and that she would go ahead if elected.
Barely Mentioned Trump
Former President Donald Trump was only mentioned once – by a debate moderator – but his presence still loomed large on the debate stage.
The three candidates on stage Sunday made a pilgrimage to Trump’s Florida resort town of Mar-A-Lago earlier this year in a bid to win Trump’s backing – a crucial endorsement in the Republican primary that Michels has finally won. But none of the candidates mentioned Trump on Sunday, despite the influence he still has in Republican politics in Wisconsin.
Instead, candidates pushed for an overhaul of the state’s electoral system and alleged voter fraud manipulated the 2020 presidential election – a claim first pushed by Trump that has not been substantiated. by evidence since.
After:Trump called on Wisconsin Assembly Speaker to continue to push false election claims
Trump decided to support Michels after learning that Kleefisch’s daughter went home in 2019 with the son of state Supreme Court Justice Brian Hagedorn, a conservative judge who voted in several unsuccessful lawsuits brought by Trump and his allies to cancel the 2020 election in Wisconsin, Journal Sentinel columnist Daniel Bice reported.