Kleefisch addresses the Republican Party of Wisconsin state convention
Gubernatorial candidate and former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch addresses the Republican Party of Wisconsin state convention in Middleton, Saturday, May 21, 2022. (Ebony Cox/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP)

Wisconsin’s Republican Party convention adopted resolutions to criminalize abortion, abolish bipartisan state election commission, not allow automatic citizenship for babies born in the United States, and oppose gun safety rules with broad public support.

Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch will not be able to get valuable support from the state Republican Party ahead of the August 9 primary for governor, after she failed to win the party’s endorsement at the GOP’s state convention on Saturday.

Per the rules set by the Republican Party of Wisconsin, Kleefisch would have needed to receive the support of 60% of delegates at the convention in Middleton. But Kleefisch, who served with former Gov. Scott Walker for eight years, could only muster 55%, while 43% of delegates voted to have the party decline to endorse any of the four Republican candidates running for governor. 

It’s the first time the state party has refused to provide a gubernatorial candidate with an endorsement and the immense pre-primary financial support it provides. 

Kleefisch fell short despite spending the past three-and-a-half years publicly seeking a clear path toward the nomination. 

Even though she failed to win the party’s endorsement, Kleefisch responded by declaring victory and saying she felt “terrific.”  She emphasized her campaign will focus on the potential for the US Supreme Court to take away abortion rights.

“Now I’m not a biologist.” Kleefisch said. “But I am a woman and I will not let a man like Tony Evers tell me how I’m supposed to feel about Roe. I will win this because I can speak with a mother’s heart.”

The other three GOP candidates—Tim Michels, Kevin Nicholson, and state Rep. Timothy Ramthun—garnered single-digit support in the endorsement vote. Michels and Nicholson are expected to spend large amounts of personal funds in the 11 weeks remaining until voters choose a nominee.

Convention delegates also refused to endorse a candidate in the primary contests for lieutenant governor, state treasurer, and attorney general. Their only endorsement was for the only incumbent seeking reelection, Sen. Ron Johnson.

The delegates did pass more than 40 resolutions.While nonbinding, they illustrate the views and values of the party’s activist base. This year’s slate includes resolutions that calling for dissolution of the Republican-created, bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission; imposing the death penalty for people who kill police officers; opposing vaccine mandates; opposing universal gun background checks and “red flag” laws that would allow judges to take guns away from people determined to be a threat; calling for the passage of a law to ban abortions; banning the teaching of “critical race theory;” and opposing automatic citizenship for people born in the United States.

“The resolutions provide the grassroots an opportunity to voice their opinions on the issues of the day,” said the Wisconsin Republican Party’s executive director, Mark Jefferson. “These are all issues that our grassroots feel very strong about.”

A new Courier Newsroom/Data for Progress poll shows 68% of likely voters across the country, including majorities of Independents and Republicans, said they oppose a national ban on abortion, with 55% saying they “strongly oppose” it. 

Democrats at the national level were quick to pounce on the abortion resolution. 

“This is what Republicans’ post-Roe world looks like—hellbent on criminalizing abortion, jailing doctors with lifetime sentences, threatening to restrict access to birth control, and potentially even jeopardizing IVF treatments,” said Democratic National Committee spokesperson Ammar Moussa. “Every single Republican will have to answer for this and will be held accountable for their extreme MAGA agenda.”

Delegates turned back two resolutions: calls to rescind the state’s Electoral College votes cast for President Joe Biden and demands to remove Rep. Robin Vos as speaker of the state Assembly. Just over 36% of delegates voted to approve the resolution calling on Vos to resign or be removed from office. The resolution calling for rescinding Biden’s electors, which numerous attorneys have said is not legally possible, drew support from 40% of delegates.

The other 46 resolutions were approved on a single vote

The Associated Press contributed to this story.