Michels vs. Kleefisch on primary day: How do they differ on the issues?
There are differences on the issues between Tim Michels and Rebecca Kleefisch. If you’re still undecided going into today’s primary, we’ve compiled a list of 10 key differences between the two Republican candidates leading in the polls.
Taxes. Guns. Abortion. WEC. And more.
In some cases, Michels took multiple positions in the past three months, initially contradicting Kleefisch and then evolving to her position. We are counting those circumstances in the list.
Tim Ramthun is also on the GOP primary ballot, along with Adam Fischer.
Here are the 10 issue differences:
1. The 1849 Abortion Law
Kleefisch supports the 1849 law.
2. Firing John Chisholm
He told Jay Weber in May that Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm should “probably be removed,” but he hated to say this far out that “I’m going to fire that guy on that day.” However, minutes later, his campaign issued a press release promising that he would “fire…Chisholm on day one.”
Kleefisch supports firing John Chisholm.
Michels initially said he wasn’t sure he wanted to abolish the Wisconsin Election Commission, then said he wanted to “dramatically reform” it, and then switched to supporting it being abolished.
Kleefisch wants the WEC abolished. However, it was created during the Walker/Kleefisch administration to replace the GAB, which Republicans believed was involved in the John Doe probe into Scott Walker.
4. Living in Wisconsin
Michels given contradictory statements on where he lived. He said he lived in Connecticut with his family on the weekends, commuting to Wisconsin. But he also said he lived in Wisconsin at least 51% of the time for tax purposes. He claimed the family went to New York for a subway project, but that ended in 2016, and Michels and his wife purchased two multi-million dollar mansions in Greenwich, Connecticut after that. His kids all graduated from high schools out east.
Kleefisch raised her family in Wisconsin and lives there still.
5. Expanded Background Checks for Gun Sales
On the Second Amendment, Michels said that he did not have an answer on whether he supported expanded background checks for buyers younger than 21. His campaign falsely told voters he was endorsed by the NRA in a direct mail piece, claiming it was inadvertent.
Kleefisch is pro Second Amendment with no red flag laws or expanded background checks.
6. Who Comes First in Education
Michels said that teachers, not students or parents, came “first.”
Kleefisch criticized this, saying teachers don’t come first.
7. Right to Work?
Michels said he “always supported right to work” on the Mark Belling show, but his company fired a worker who refused to pay union dues and then joined a coalition of companies that fought against Right to Work. The company gave a worker a day off to protest Walker-Kleefisch’s right-to-work reforms.
Kleefisch supports right-to-work and it was signed under the Walker administration, although some people don’t think Walker/Kleefisch got it done soon enough.
8. No Tax Pledge
During a debate on the Dan O’Donnell show, Kleefisch and Michels disagreed on whether to sign the Americans for Tax Reform no-tax pledge (see above.) Kleefisch has signed it. Michels has not.
Kleefisch said, “I have signed, and I am the only candidate for governor who has signed” the pledge. She said, “I pledge to never do any net tax increases in the state of Wisconsin.”
O’Donnell pointed out that both Kleefisch and former candidate Kevin Nicholson had signed the pledge and asked Michels why he had not.
Michels said, “You have these lobbyists in Washington D.C. They have a business model if you will. They run across the country and get candidates to sign these tax pledges, and they get money from this.”
He said that these individuals are sitting “in their walnut-paneled, marbled offices on K Street in Washington D.C.”
Michels said he did not need to sign a tax pledge in order to ensure people he won’t raise taxes. Instead, he said he would “shake your hand, look you in the eye.”
“I don’t need to sign a tax pledge,” Michels said. Instead, he said he would “give you my pledge right now. I’m not going to raise taxes.” He said he wants to “get political gamesmanship out of politics.”
The pledge has been signed by many prominent figures outside Wisconsin, like GOP Governors Ron DeSantis, Kristi Noem and Greg Abbott, and inside Wisconsin, like U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and Congressman Bryan Steil, both Republicans.
9. Waste in the State Transportation Budget
Michels and Kleefisch disagreed on waste in the state’s Transportation Budget during the O’Donnell debate.
Kleefisch said, “Unlike my opponent, I’ve said there is waste, fraud and abuse in government and in the Department of Transportation. I’ve seen it myself.”
She was referring to Michels.
Michels clarified that what he said previously on this topic was that “what I said was there is no waste, fraud and abuse in the transportation construction budget.” He said there is about a billion dollars in the annual budget for building and maintaining roads.
He said it was “highly competitive,” and he was “intimately familiar with that, of course.”
10. The Flat Tax
Michels and Kleefisch differed in their responses on the notion of a “flat tax.”
Kleefisch promised “massive welfare reform,” and then said she would “drive our income tax rate down to 3.54 percent, hold that lowest tax bracket harmless and drive everyone else’s taxes way down low.” She also promised to “eliminate the retirement tax,” and “eliminate the personal property tax once and for all, which Tony Evers has vetoed.” She added: “And I will never raise the gas tax.”
Michels said the people in Wisconsin have been overtaxed. “They’ve been overtaxed by about $5.4 billion. Some in Madison that will celebrate that, mostly on the left, and say this is great, we have all this money, but that’s on top of a rainy day fund that’s just under $2 billion,” he said.
As for the surpluses, he said, “We should not be stockpiling money in Madison; people are overtaxed. I am going to do tax reform as governor.” He said he would work with the Legislature, and “we are going to lower taxes anywhere and everywhere you can. But you have to do the math.”
He continued, “For example, If we want to reduce the income tax right now about $17 billion out of the annual $44 billion in revenue that comes in from taxes is from the income tax. If we’re going to reduce that by 15%, you’re going to have about a $2.5 billion reduction in revenue, which is great, the people are being taxed by $2.5 billion less and you can do that if you have a $5.4 billion surplus right now. So we can look at the math on all of this. I’m great at math; I’d love to go further into the numbers.”
He noted, “We just want to make sure that we are not doing an offset that can not be overcome. For example, if you completely eliminate the property tax, which is about $2.3 billion of revenue, you would eat into the $5.4 billion surplus in about the second month of the second annual budget. So I’m going to do the math, and lower taxes everywhere I can.”
He said the “personal property tax, that’s an easy one. It’s a $2 million tax cut we can do right away.”