Rebecca Kleefisch

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Rebecca Kleefisch
44th Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin
In office
January 3, 2011 – January 7, 2019
GovernorScott Walker
Preceded byBarbara Lawton
Succeeded byMandela Barnes
Personal details
Rebecca Ann Reed

(1975-08-07) August 7, 1975 (age 48)
Pontiac, Michigan, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
SpouseJoel Kleefisch
EducationUniversity of Wisconsin,
WebsiteCampaign website

Rebecca Ann Kleefisch (née Reed; born August 7, 1975) is an American politician and former television reporter who served as the 44th Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin from 2011 to 2019.[1] A member of the Republican Party, she was elected to the position on November 2, 2010, as the running mate of Governor Scott Walker; the pair narrowly lost reelection to a third term in 2018.[2]

Kleefisch was a candidate in the 2022 Wisconsin gubernatorial election, but lost the Republican nomination to businessman Tim Michels in the August 9 primary.[3]

Early life, education, and career[edit]

Rebecca Ann Reed was born in Pontiac, Michigan.[4] Her family later relocated to Ohio, where she won the Miss Ohio Teen USA 1994 title. On August 16, 1994, she competed in the nationally televised Miss Teen USA 1994 pageant as Miss Ohio Teen USA in Biloxi, Mississippi, but did not place in the competition. Reed graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.[5] She was a reporter for WIFR-TV in Rockford, Illinois, and then was a reporter and later morning anchor for WISN-TV in Milwaukee,[5] before leaving in 2004. Kleefisch formed her own company, Rebecca Kleefisch Enterprises and was a contributor to Charlie Sykes' program on WTMJ Radio in Milwaukee.

Political positions[edit]


Kleefisch supports Wisconsin's 1849 abortion ban that went into effect in 2022 after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision by the United States Supreme Court eliminated the constitutional right to an abortion in the United States. The law bans abortion in all instances except to save the life of the mother.[6][7] Kleefisch believes that abortion should be illegal in all other instances, including after rape or incest,[8] or to protect the health of the mother.[9] She also wrote[10] that she agrees with Sharron Angle that raped women should "turn lemons into lemonade" by having their rapist's child.[4]

Marriage rights[edit]

Kleefisch has indicated support for same-sex marriage, acknowledging her views have changed since she compared same-sex marriage to marrying a dog or an inanimate object in 2010, comments she later called a "poor choice of words."[11][12][13][14][15] By 2022, Kleefisch said "I am in the same place that I would say as a vast majority of Wisconsinites and Americans are. My opinion has changed…gay marriage will be legal when I am governor of Wisconsin."[16]

Health care[edit]

Kleefisch opposes the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and has supported efforts to repeal the legislation. She has called the ACA "an abomination."[17]

Other positions[edit]

Kleefisch criticized Wisconsin's progressive income tax system and has promised "transformational income tax reform" if she were to become governor. She suggested eliminating taxes on retirement income.[18]

Kleefisch is open to paid family leave, saying "we need to make sure that moms and dads have time to bond with their babies. That's absolutely something that I would look at as governor."[19]

In 2009, Kleefisch said that there is "no consensus that people have caused climate change."[20]

In 2012, when she faced a recall election, Kleefisch criticized the recall process, arguing that it has become a "spectacle" and were designed only to recall officials guilty of grave wrongdoing, rather than used as a way to resolve policy disputes. In 2021, however, Kleefisch championed the recall election of four Mequon-Thiensville School District over policy disputes.[21] In 2022, she proposed removing some election-related powers from the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission and transferring them to the state Department of Justice, headed by the elected state attorney general.[22]

In 2020, she praised Donald Trump's trade policies, as well as his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.[23] After Trump lost the 2020 presidential election and made false claims of fraud while refusing to concede, she defended Trump's false claims of fraud.[24]

In 2021, she called for a ban on sanctuary cities, as well as a ban on the teaching of critical race theory in public schools.[25]

Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin[edit]

Although Kleefisch's husband Joel had been a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly since being elected in 2004, Kleefisch's own first entry into politics began when she ran for Lieutenant Governor in 2010.[26][27] During her Republican primary campaign, Scott Jensen was her strategist; she made appeals to conservative talk radio hosts and Tea Party groups,[28] as well as social conservatives and the Christian right, circulating a flier saying that, if elected, she would be "relying on the wisdom and faith she has in Jesus."[27] In the primary election, she defeated four rivals, including Brett Davis, who had support from the party establishment and was favored by Scott Walker, the Republican candidate for governor.[28] In the November 2010 general election, she won election on a single ticket as Walker's running mate.[29]

Kleefisch spent eight years as lieutenant governor under Walker.[30] Along with Walker, Kleefisch played a major role in supporting and promoting the $3 billion incentive package to Foxconn.[30][31]

In 2018, Kleefisch claimed that her campaign opponent Mandela Barnes was kneeling during the U.S. national anthem protests at the Wisconsin State Fair.[32] She later apologized for making the claim.[33]

2012 recall[edit]

Following a contentious collective bargaining dispute in 2011, an effort began to recall Walker and Kleefisch. After examining petitions, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board determined there were more than 800,000 valid signatures to hold a recall election.[34] In the June 5, 2012 recall election, Walker and Kleefisch were retained in office. Kleefisch is the only lieutenant governor in the history of any state in the United States to face recall election and ultimately survive a recall.[35]

Post-lieutenant governorship[edit]

In January 2019,[36] Kleefisch was appointed to serve as the executive director of the Women's Suffrage Centennial Commission.[37] She served in that position until becoming a Jobs Ambassador for Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin in November 2019.[38] As a jobs ambassador, she promotes careers in the skilled construction trades.[39]

2022 gubernatorial campaign[edit]

In September 2021, Kleefisch announced that she would seek the Republican nomination for Governor of Wisconsin in the following year's election.[40] In her announcement, she likened herself to Donald Trump.[25] She began her campaign by criticizing the leadership of incumbent Democratic Governor Tony Evers and attacking his response to the 2020 Kenosha unrest.[41] In October 2021, she told Republicans that they needed to "hire mercenaries" and engage in "ballot harvesting" (a practice she has called for banning) to help her win the 2022 race.[42] In November 2021, she said that a vaccine requirement for poll workers in Wisconsin was intended to prevent Republicans from becoming poll workers and thus hide wrongdoing.[43] Kleefisch recently sued the Wisconsin Elections Commission, alleging that they broke the law during the 2020 election.[44]

During her campaign, Kleefisch initially recognized that Biden won the 2020 election but by early 2022, she declined to take a position on the matter.[45][46] In April 2022, Kleefisch said that the election was "rigged."[47] On decertifying the results of the 2020 election in Wisconsin, Kleefisch said it is "not constitutionally possible."[48]

Kleefisch was defeated in the Republican primary by Tim Michels, who went on to lose the general election to incumbent Evers.

Personal life[edit]

Kleefisch is married to former State Representative Joel Kleefisch, who was also a reporter for WISN-TV. They have two daughters.[49] They lived in Oconomowoc, located 16 miles west of Waukesha, Wisconsin, and were members of Crosspoint Community Church, a Christian & Missionary Alliance-affiliated megachurch in Oconomowoc. Since losing re-election, Kleefisch and her family moved to Concord, Wisconsin.[50]

In late August 2010, Kleefisch was diagnosed with colon cancer.[51] She had a tumor removed in early September 2010,[51] and finished chemotherapy treatment by April 2011.[52]

Electoral history[edit]

2018 Wisconsin gubernatorial election[53]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Tony Evers/Mandela Barnes 1,324,648 49.6
Republican Scott Walker/Rebecca Kleefisch (Incumbent) 1,293,799 48.4
Libertarian Phil Anderson/Patrick Baird 20,320 0.8
Democratic gain from Republican
2014 Wisconsin gubernatorial election[54]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Scott Walker/Rebecca Kleefisch (Incumbent) 1,259,031 52.29
Democratic Mary Burke/John Lehman 1,121,490 46.58
Libertarian Robert Burke/Joseph Brost 18,375 0.49
Independent Dennis Fehr 9,004 0.37
Majority 137,541 5.71%
Total votes 2,407,900 100
Republican hold
2012 Wisconsin lieutenant governor recall election[55]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Rebecca Kleefisch (Incumbent) 1,301,739 52.9
Democratic Mahlon Mitchell 1,156,520 47.1
Total votes 2,458,259 100.0
Republican hold
2010 Wisconsin gubernatorial election[56]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Scott Walker/ Rebecca Kleefisch 1,128,941 52.29% +6.93%
Democratic Tom Barrett/ Tom Nelson 1,004,303 46.52% -6.24%
Independent Third Party/ Write-In 25,730 1.19%
Majority 124,638 5.77% -1.62%
Turnout 2,158,974
Republican gain from Democratic Swing
2010 Wisconsin lieutenant governor Republican primary election
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Rebecca Kleefisch 258,714 46.78
Republican Brett Davis 139,997 25.31
Republican Dave Ross 80,617 14.58
Republican Robert Gerald Lorge 52,076 9.42
Republican Nick Voegeli 21,040 3.80

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 'Wisconsin Blue Book 2011–2012,' Biographical Sketch of Rebecca Kleefisch, pg. 4
  2. ^ "Walker wins governor's race on promise of jobs", Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 3, 2010.
  3. ^ "Tim Michels defeats Rebecca Kleefisch, advances to Wisconsin governor's race against Democrat Tony Evers". Retrieved August 9, 2022.
  4. ^ a b Redman, Henry (August 3, 2022). "Opposition to abortion ban exemptions leaves child sex assault victims with limited options". Wisconsin Examiner. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  5. ^ a b Sykes, Charlie. "Update: Rebecca Kleefisch Announces". WTMJ (AM). Retrieved December 29, 2010.
  6. ^ "Views on abortion to shake up campaigns, upcoming elections in Wisconsin". CBS58. Retrieved May 6, 2022.
  7. ^ "UPFRONT: Evers, Kleefisch comment on abortion law". Retrieved August 2, 2022.
  8. ^ WITI: Rebecca Kleefisch Opposes Exceptions for Rape and Incest in Abortion Law, retrieved August 4, 2022
  9. ^ "Upfront: Evers, Kleefisch comment on abortion law". WBAY. June 26, 2022. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  10. ^ "Kleefisch post on Facebook". Facebook. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  11. ^ Bice, Daniel (October 28, 2010). "Kleefisch's uncle objects to anti-gay marriage statement". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved January 13, 2011.
  12. ^ "Kleefisch apologizes for gay marriage comment", The Boston Globe, October 28, 2010.
  13. ^ Shahid, Aliyah (October 29, 2010). "GOP candidate, Rebecca Kleefisch, in Wisconsin: Sorry for comparing gay marriage to marrying a dog". New York Daily News. Retrieved January 13, 2011.
  14. ^ "WI GOPer Apologizes For Comparing Gay Marriage To Bestiality Or Marrying A Table", Talking Points Memo DC, October 29, 2010.
  15. ^ "After Comments, Kleefisch's Gay Uncle Supporting Opponent", WISN 12 News, October 28, 2010.
  16. ^ Fannon, Emilee. "Kleefisch supports upholding access to birth control, gay marriage as some fear rollback of civil liberties". Retrieved August 2, 2022.
  17. ^ Beck, Molly. "Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, a cancer survivor, pushes back on ad suggesting pre-existing conditions protections are in jeopardy". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved June 20, 2021.
  18. ^ Marley, Patrick. "Rebecca Kleefisch nods at moving Wisconsin to a flat income tax as she pursues run for governor". Retrieved August 2, 2022.
  19. ^ Johnson, Shawn. "Republicans signal support for paid family leave in governor's debate". Retrieved August 2, 2022.
  20. ^ Kleefisch, Rebecca. "Is it cold or is it just me?". RebeccaforReal. Archived from the original on June 5, 2012. Retrieved June 5, 2012.
  21. ^ Daniel Bice (October 19, 2021). "Kleefisch, once recall critic, backs Mequon-Thiensville school recall". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  22. ^ Kleefisch proposes shifting some election duties to DOJ, Associated Press (February 14, 2022).
  23. ^ Oppenheim, Oren. "At Trump event, Rebecca Kleefisch criticizes state leadership on Kenosha shooting". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved June 20, 2021.
  24. ^ Reilly, Briana (February 1, 2021). "Wisconsin Republicans grapple with state of party post-Trump". The Capital Times.
  25. ^ a b "Republican Kleefisch enters Wisconsin governor's race". Associated Press. September 9, 2021. Retrieved September 10, 2021.
  26. ^ Tim Cuprisin, OnMedia: From the anchor desk to state politics, On Milwaukee (2010).
  27. ^ a b Daniel Bice, Candidate's campaign manager is man upstairs" Wisconsin lieutenant governor candidate Kleefisch makes religious appeal. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (September 5, 2010).
  28. ^ a b Bruce Murphy, The Lt. Governor Nobody Wanted, Urban Milwakuee (October 7, 2014).
  29. ^ Jason Stein, Would governor recall be a package deal? Accountability board researching whether a Walker ticket would include Kleefisch, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (August 27, 2011).
  30. ^ a b Madeline Heim, Yes, Foxconn deal was largest government incentive package offered to a foreign company, PolitiFact (October 26, 2021).
  31. ^ Protesters criticize Kleefisch for supporting Foxconn project, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (April 18, 2022).
  32. ^ "'Rebecca, for real?' Mandela Barnes calls Kleefisch's claims he knelt during anthem 'crazy'". September 17, 2018. Retrieved February 15, 2019.
  33. ^ Scott Bauer (September 18, 2019). "Wisconsin official apologizes to opponent over flag flap". Associated Press.
  34. ^ "GAB staff finds more than 900,000 valid signatures to recall Walker". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved March 30, 2012.
  35. ^ "Wis. Lt. Gov. Kleefisch survives recall election". Associated Press. June 5, 2012.
  36. ^ "Rebecca Kleefisch To Head National Group Commemorating Women's Suffrage". Wisconsin Public Radio. January 23, 2019. Retrieved February 15, 2019.
  37. ^ "Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch appointed executive director of the Women's Suffrage Centennial Commission". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved February 15, 2019.
  38. ^ "Former Lt. Gov. Kleefisch partners with ABC of Wisconsin". ABC Wisconsin. November 12, 2019. Retrieved October 25, 2020.
  39. ^ "Movers & Shakers". MKElifestyle. February 21, 2020. Retrieved October 25, 2020.
  40. ^ "Former GOP lieutenant governor launches bid to oust Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers". NBC News. September 9, 2021.
  41. ^ Steinhauser, Paul (September 8, 2021). "Former Wisconsin Lt. Gov Kleefisch launches GOP challenge against Democratic Gov. Evers". Fox News.
  42. ^ "Rebecca Kleefisch says Republicans need to 'hire mercenaries'". 2021. Retrieved October 26, 2021.
  43. ^ Marley, Patrick. "Rebecca Kleefisch contends Madison is using a vaccine mandate to keep Republicans from serving as poll workers". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved November 18, 2021.
  44. ^ "Kleefisch Files Lawsuit Against Wisconsin Elections Commission". Rebecca Kleefisch for Governor. November 15, 2021. Retrieved December 1, 2021.
  45. ^ Epstein, Reid J. (February 19, 2022). "Fringe Scheme to Reverse 2020 Election Splits Wisconsin G.O.P." The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 19, 2022.
  46. ^ Scott Bauer (February 17, 2022). "Kleefisch used to believe Biden won Wisconsin, now won't say". Associated Press. Retrieved February 19, 2022.
  47. ^ Beck, Molly. "With no evidence, Rebecca Kleefisch, Wisconsin candidate for governor, says 2020 election was 'rigged'". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved April 28, 2022.
  48. ^ Johnson, Shawn. "Republicans running for Wisconsin governor won't commit to backing Trump in 2024". Retrieved August 2, 2022.
  49. ^ "Bio". Retrieved March 31, 2012.
  50. ^ Sharp, Steve (January 10, 2019). "Rebecca Kleefisch settling into life after lieutenant governorship". Daily Jefferson County Union. Retrieved February 15, 2019.
  51. ^ a b Stein, Jason (September 29, 2010). "Kleefisch treated for cancer". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  52. ^ Schneider, Jim. "In Focus: Rebecca Kleefisch". WVCY-TV. Retrieved April 15, 2011.
  53. ^ "Wisconsin Governor Election Results". New York Times. January 28, 2019.
  54. ^ "Wisconsin gubernatorial election, 2014". WTMJ-TV. Milwaukee, WI. Archived from the original on November 7, 2014. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  55. ^ "Wisconsin Recall Election Results Map". Retrieved July 23, 2012.
  56. ^[bare URL PDF]

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin
2010, 2012, 2014, 2018
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin
Succeeded by