Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Who’s the Real Outsider for Governor?

Almost every candidate claims to be. But who really, actually is?

By - May 23rd, 2022 05:55 pm
Rebecca Kleefisch, Tim Michels, Kevin Nicholson and Tim Ramthun.

Rebecca Kleefisch, Tim Michels, Kevin Nicholson and Tim Ramthun.

At the outset let’s make it clear that Democrat Tony Evers is not the outsider candidate for governor. Quite the contrary. He’s not just the incumbent governor, but a former state Superintendent of Public Instruction (2010 to 2018), former deputy superintendent (2001-2009), and before that a district school superintendent and before that a local school administrator. Need I go on? This is man with decades of such experience who shamelessly holds to the belief that government can be a force for good and provide needed services for people. Tony Evers is an absolute, unapologetic insider.

He faces an angry cast of Republicans who despise such obvious elitism. And no one is working harder to convey that outrage than Rebecca Kleefisch. The doctors literally cut out half her guts yet she has twice as much guts as Evers, Kleefisch has declared. She is a “fighter” and a “mama grizzly” who has denounced Democrats as “pure evil.” She has called for Republicans to build an army of “paid mercenaries” to harvest election ballots and implored her supporters to have their “knives out” to help her win election. Kleefisch has also called for disbanding the Wisconsin Elections Commission and replacing it with the oversight of someone like the Secretary of State so the voters have “one throat to choke.”

Yes, this is the kind of incendiary rhetoric you’d expect from someone out to overthrow the government establishment, it’s classic outsider rabble rousing. Except that Kleefisch is a Republican insider, who served as Lt. Governor for eight years, who sought the endorsement of the Republican convention and got nearly 55% of the vote from these GOP insiders. Kleefisch is backed by a laundry list of conservative lobbying groups and backed by Republican hero and former governor Scott Walker as well as Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who warned another GOP candidate not to get into the race.

Her top primary candidate is Tim Michels, who is running the classic outsider campaign. His first ad disparaged “establishment Republicans,” while declaring himself at “outsider,” 12-year military “veteran” and “builder.”

“I’m not some career politician,” Michels declared. “I’m a self-made businessman who doesn’t give a rip about the special interests or their money.” No indeed Michels has amplified, “tne lobbyists are not gonna like me at all, they’re gonna be very frustrated. I’m not beholden to them.”

Except that his family’s business has depended on state government for some $1.3 billion in road contracts since 2008, and in return Michels and his family have strategically donated to Republicans politicians and co-chairs of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee. Some 35% of all donations to Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel for his failed 2018 reelection campaign were from the Michels family. He has also served on the board of the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s powerful business lobby. Some of his top campaign advisors, Republican insiders say, are longtime lobbyists like John Gard, Bill McCoshen and Brian Fraley.

If Michels is an outsider at all, it would be in the sense that he has actually lived outside the state for about half of the time over the last nine years. After the news came out about his family’s mansion in Connecticut, Michels offered various explanations, but has yet to make clear if and when he and his wife and family will take up full time residence in Wisconsin.

Then there is Kevin Nicholson, whose candidacy has been a scorched earth campaign against the Republican Party. He derided State Republican Party Chairman Paul Farrow, saying “You represent a broken machine — you’re part of it.” He blasted the state GOP as a failed party that “has lost 11 out of 12 statewide general elections, in part because we have a pathetic machine running it from Madison. And see, it’s the same people, you name it, from the Robin Voses of the world to the cabal of lobbyists that are backing my respective primary opponents.” Nicholson has charged that Kleefisch and Michels have “warring tribes of lobbyists that are surrounding them….I mean, I am the outsider candidate that can win the general election.”

Indeed, Nicholson is so far outside the Republican establishment he was for many years a Democrat. He is a former liberal who was president of the College Democrats of America and spoke at the 2000 Democratic National Convention. Though Nicholson claimed he began moving away from the Democratic party after that, he registered to vote as a Democrat in Pender County, North Carolina in 2005 and voted as a Democrat in North Carolina’s 2008 presidential primary. His main qualification to run against loyal Republican Leah Vukmir in the 2018 GOP primary for U.S. Senator (which he lost) was $3,5 million in funding from wealthy conservative kingmaker Richard Uihlein, who urged Nicholson to run against Kleefisch. Has any “outsider” candidate ever been more reliant on one fat-cat donor?

Perhaps the strangest aspect of this heated battle for the title of outsider is that it requires you to dump on Vos, who was recently booed at the state Republican convention. Even Kleefisch has suggested the Assembly Republican caucus should fire Vos — this after Vos sought to clear the field of primary opponents for her. And no one has been more of an antagonist to Vos than Republican Assembly Rep. Tim Ramthun of Washington.

Ramthun has repeatedly attacked Vos and made false claims about the Assembly Speaker, claiming Vos was in cahoots with Hillary Clinton. As a result, Vos stripped Ramthun of his sole staff member at the Assembly. After Vos asked Ramthun to leave the Speaker’s office Ramthun declared that he wanted to punch Vos in the nose. Vos had to go on conservative talk radio to explain — something he has done repeatedly — that Ramthun’s call to decertify the election is illegal and unconstitutional. 

Ramthum’s false claims may also involve his own career. As columnist John Torinus wrote, Ramthun refused to answer questions about his “fishy” claims of having served as a business consultant. “He has also been a disruptive member of the Kewaskum School Board,” Torinus reported. “He served two years as president before he was voted off the board. He was censured twice for violations of school board policy.” And Ramthun has been reimbursed for travel to political events, which is against Assembly rules, eight times, as the Wisconsin Examiner reported.

Yes, if you truly want an outsider, you can’t go wrong with Ramthun. He is outside the Legislative rules, outside of reason and outside of the constitution. He was born for this bizarre election.

3 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Who’s the Real Outsider for Governor?”

  1. MilwMike1 says:

    No Vernon Thompson or Warren Knowles on the (R) side of the ballot. Not even a “stick it to Milwaukee” TT.

  2. ringo muldano says:

    The bag of bile being shot out through a fire hose by the entire republicon party is all about their language of violence and half-truths, if not outright hate and lies. The electorate that supports a republicon nowadays is a hot mess of willful ignorance and complete lack of self-awareness. Whether R’s win or lose this year, this will not end well – society and community have already lost.

    I can’t hate my neighbor because his lack of capacity, but each and every one of these bastards are a POS.

  3. says:

    “Profiles in….BS”- what a sorry gang of grifters. I just hope that the Republican circular firing squad leaves none of these cretins standing in Nov.

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