WAUKESHA (WKOW) — Former President Donald Trump made his first visit to Wisconsin since the 2020 election Friday. On the Waukesha County Fairgrounds, he voiced his support for Tim Michels ahead of Tuesday’s primary in the GOP race for governor.
At the same time, Trump continued his attacks on Wisconsin’s most powerful lawmaker, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Trump has pressured Vos to take up the legally impossible cause of reclaiming the state’s 2020 electoral votes.
While numerous legal cases, recounts in the state’s two most populous counties, and reviews by nonpartisan and conservative entities have found no proof of widespread voter fraud, the 2020 election looms over the 2022 mid-terms.
Trump falsely claimed that the state supreme court ruling banning the use of drop boxes meant he won Wisconsin the 2020 election. That’s not what the court’s ruling said. Trump praised Adam Steen, who’s challenging Vos in Tuesday’s primary in the 63rd Assembly district.
“Adam Steen is running to defeat your RINO Speaker of the [Assembly] Robin Vos,” Trump said. “Despite undeniable evidence of rigging and fraud, Speaker Vos has taken no steps to hold the Wisconsin Elections Commission accountable.”
In his remarks to the crowd, Michels said election integrity was his top priority. Michels made no mention of the decertifying the 2020 election, and has refused to directly answer whether he’d sign any bill seeking to reclaim the 2020 electoral votes.
Michels, however, did repeat his vow to disband the Wisconsin Elections Commission and sign off on new restrictions for absentee voting. In particular, Michels said he’d require anyone with ‘indefinitely confined’ status to show photo ID before getting a ballot sent for each election.
“I’m gonna make sure that this indefinitely confined status stops,” Michels said. “Just because you may have gotten Covid two years ago doesn’t mean you should get a ballot, or in some cases I’ve heard multiple ballots, mailed to you for the rest of your life.”
Currently, voters with confined status automatically get a ballot issued after showing ID the first time. The provision is meant for people who can’t leave their home, but was used heavily in both Democratic and Republican counties in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Polls earlier in the summer showed former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Michels in a close race. While Michels’s campaign said in recent weeks internal polling showed him with a lead of nearly 10 percentage points, Republican insiders said Michels launching negative attacks this week against Kleefisch indicates a close contest ahead of Tuesday’s primary.
Trump attacked Kleefisch as a “Madison insider,” noting the elections commission was created under her and former Gov. Scott Walker.
“Rebecca Kleefisch does not have what it takes to beat [Gov.] Tony Evers,” Trump said. “Tony Evers is close to incompetent, but he’s gonna win if he runs against Rebecca.”
Kleefisch has also vowed to abolish the elections commission, while also enacting stricter laws for absente voting. Rep. Tim Ramthun’s campaign is based on his effort to decertify the 2020 election, but has only polled in single digits.
Democrats have maintained each of the three candidates would be too extreme for Wisconsin, one of the country’s most politically competitive states.
“Today’s Trump rally and this week’s Pence visit only underscore that,” Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer (D-Racine) said. “Rebecca Kleefisch and Tim Michels are not here for Wisconsinites. They are here to pander to their ultra-MAGA base.”
In addition to Michels, the list of invited speakers also included Steen, who told the crowd he agreed with those who describe Vos, the state’s longest-tenured speaker, as a treasonous traitor.
Vos appointed Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls) to chair the Assembly’s elections committee. Brandtjen has used her seat to give election deniers a platform in legislative hearings. Brandtjen has endorsed Steen amid her frustration with Vos; she’s maintained Vos hasn’t done enough to revisit the 2020 election and has endorsed Steen.
Vos hired former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman to lead the Assembly’s investigation of the 2020 election.
Gableman’s review has cost the public more than $1 million; much of it going to outside lawyers as Gableman fights four lawsuits over his handling of records tied to the investigation.
Trump praised Gableman multiple times during the speech and told the crowd Gableman is also endorsing Steen’s effort to unseat Vos.
Gableman delivered the opening prayer at Friday’s rally.