MADISON, Wisconsin (AP) — The Donald Trump-backed Republican nominee for Wisconsin governor Monday would not commit to supporting Trump should he run for president again in 2024, but also didn’t rule out trying to ameliorate his defeat state to be decertified in 2020 on the battlefield.
Trump-backed candidate Tim Michels also said at a town hall event a week before the Aug. 9 primary that he didn’t think Trump did anything wrong on Jan. 6, 2021. The former Lt. gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who is endorsed by former Vice President Mike Pence, said she will support whoever wins the 2024 Republican primary for president.
A third candidate who has made decertification a cornerstone of his candidacy, Rep. Tim Ramthun, has also not committed to supporting Trump in 2024 should he run for president.
The winner of next week’s primary will face Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in November. Whoever wins will become governor during the 2024 presidential campaign and be able to sign off on or veto amendments to electoral law passed by Wisconsin’s conservative-controlled legislature.
Trump has been grappling with the Republican primary for governor. He backed Michels, who co-owns an energy and infrastructure construction company, and bypassed Kleefisch, who served as Scott Walker’s lieutenant governor for eight years. She received confirmation from Pence last week.
Trump has scheduled a rally in a conservative Milwaukee suburb for Friday night.
Michels said he gained Trump’s support because he is a businessman and a political outsider. But he refused to say he would support Trump in 2024.
“2024? I’m concentrating on this election right now,” said Michels. “I have not committed to any candidate for 2024. I’m focused on beating Tony Evers.”
Kleefisch said, “I’m going to support the Republican nominee, and it looks like we have an assortment to choose from.”
Ramthun, who is way behind Michels and Kleefisch in polls, said 2024 will be “a whole new game” and that he will support whoever wins the primary.
Ramthun has pushed for the decertification of the 2020 election, which Trump lost to President Joe Biden in Wisconsin by nearly 21,000 votes. The result has withstood two partial recounts, multiple lawsuits, an impartial scrutiny and a review by a conservative law firm. A review by a former conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court justice also found no evidence to overturn Biden’s victory.
Michels didn’t rule out signing a bill to decertify Trump’s loss, although legal experts, including conservative lawyers, said it was unconstitutional and impossible. Michels said if he were elected governor he would look at all the evidence of what happened in the 2020 election and “everything will be on the table.”
Kleefisch ruled out decertification in their strongest comments on the subject to date.
“It’s not constitutionally possible,” she said. “There is no way to undo an election that has already taken place.”
All three candidates said they would accept the results of next week’s primary.
As for the Jan. 6 riot, Michels and Kleefisch blamed those who stormed the Capitol, but not Trump, for what happened after his Stop the Steal rally.
“Donald Trump, he had a rally,” Michels said. “I haven’t seen any evidence that Donald Trump said, ‘Now go to the Capitol and storm it.’ I don’t think he would have done it. … I don’t think he did anything wrong.”
Kleefisch said, “Ultimately those who stormed the Capitol are responsible.”
More than 840 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the uprising. Over 340 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors. More than 220 were convicted, almost half of them to prison terms. Around 150 more have hearing dates up to 2023.
A special committee of the US House of Representatives continues to investigate the January 6 riot and Trump’s role in it.
Hosted by WISN-TV in Milwaukee, the Town Hall was the last scheduled joint appearance by the Republican candidates before the election.