Rebecca Kleefisch raises $3.3 million in Wisconsin gubernatorial bid

Former Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch
Former Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch

Former Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (R) has raised $3.3 million since launching her gubernatorial bid in September, according to her campaign.

The Hill was the first outlet to report on Kleefisch's fundraising haul, the latest indication that she is ramping up her efforts in the race for the governor's mansion.

The former lieutenant governor released her first ad of the campaign last week, zeroing in on school closures in Madison and Milwaukee as coronavirus cases rise.

Kleefisch's campaign is also touting grassroots conservative support in Wisconsin. Kleefisch has been endorsed by Wisconsin Right to Life, the Milwaukee Police Association and more than 30 sheriffs in the state. The campaign also reports having a staff of eight coordinating operations.

"I have now stood shoulder to shoulder with grassroots activists across Wisconsin for 12 years straight," Kleefisch told The Hill in an interview. "I have been loyal, and I've served the people of Wisconsin, and now I think with this fundraising number I can say they've noticed and they see how dedicated I am to serving the people of this state."

But the campaign received one of its biggest boosts yet last week when former Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) announced that he will not launch a gubernatorial bid, making Kleefisch the most prominent contender in the primary. Former President Trump had publicly pushed Duffy to launch a gubernatorial run. The move could allow Kleefisch to shore up support from the Trump base in the state.

Kleefisch said Trump campaigning in Wisconsin this year would be a "tremendous thing."

The GOP primary field is currently made up of four candidates, including Kleefisch. However, there is a strong possibility more candidates could jump into the race ahead of the primary in August.

Former Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson, who unsuccessfully ran in the 2018 GOP Senate primary, has maintained that if Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) runs for reelection, he would run for governor. After Johnson announced his reelection bid on Sunday, Nicholson said that he was considering a run for governor in a series of tweets.

"It's no secret that I'm considering a run for Governor. It is time for new leadership in Wisconsin. We deserve a Governor who shares our values, works for our kids, stands up for law enforcement, defends life, and secures our elections," Nicholson said.

Whoever wins the primary will face incumbent Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) in November. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the race as a "toss-up."

Kleefisch told The Hill that she is laser-focused on the general election ahead. "I am running in a general election against Gov. Tony Evers, who I believe has failed the people of Wisconsin," she said.

Kleefisch acknowledged that 2022 has the potential to be a successful midterm year for Republicans in Wisconsin and across the country but warned that the party should not take its foot off the gas.

"What we are going to be focused on is state issues because this is a state race," Kleefisch said. "But 2024 is coming, which is why we know Democrats deeply value winning the state of Wisconsin because as goes Wisconsin, so goes the country."

"I as governor will be able to help our nominee win our electoral votes and win the White House back from Joe Biden," she added.