WAUKESHA (AP) — Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch survived a historic recall attempt Tuesday, turning back her Democratic challenger and avoiding becoming the first lieutenant governor in the nation’s history to be recalled.
Kleefisch faced a recall along with her boss, Gov. Scott Walker, who also won his recall election. Walker and Kleefisch are both Republicans.
“Now this is what democracy looks like,” a jubilant Kleefisch told supporters at a victory rally. “Friends, years from now they will say the campaign to save America began tonight in Wisconsin.”
Democrats and unions had been angered after Walker and the GOP-led Legislature took on public-sector union rights last year. Kleefisch’s role in the process, at least publicly, appeared marginal. However, as Walker’s second-in-command she found herself caught up in the same wave of anger that was directed at her boss and several other GOP lawmakers.
Mitchell argued that Kleefisch deserved to be recalled because she hadn’t done enough to balance out Walker’s agenda. He called her a “rubber stamp” for Walker’s proposals, and said if Walker deserved to go, then so did she.
Kleefisch argued that she was an indispensable partner who helped Walker create jobs and get spending under control.
Whitefish Bay lawyer Andy Wronski, 42, said he voted for Kleefisch to go along with his vote for Walker. However, he called the lieutenant governor position a “tag-along” and said he didn’t think it matters who holds that office.
During a brief concession speech, Mitchell told supporters he wouldn’t let his defeat keep him from continuing the fight that the recalls sparked. “Wisconsin voters sent one message tonight, that our state continues to be divided,” Mitchell said. “And the only way, the only way people change is we find a way to work together. And we have to do that.”
No other lieutenant governor has ever been up for recall. Maybe that’s because of the nature of the office: The job description is typically so light that there aren’t many opportunities to inflame the public’s anger.
In Wisconsin the position — which pays $76,261 per year — is largely ceremonial. The main responsibility is to take over if the governor dies, leaves office early or is incapacitated.
Ian Kutner of Milwaukee said he didn’t know much about either lieutenant governor candidate. He said he voted for Mitchell because he wanted to see both Republican incumbents removed from office.
“I figured if she (Kleefisch) is working with Walker, then I was going to vote for the other one,” said Kutner, 23, an armored-car driver.
Since 170, Wisconsin has elected its governor and lieutenant governor as a pair on a joint ticket. But because of how these recalls were conducted, the races for governor and lieutenant governor were listed separately.
That could have led to an interesting if improbable scenario — a Democrat in one office and a Republican in the other. For that to happen, though, voters would have had to split their tickets — not a likely development, considering the extremely partisan nature of the recalls.