Republican gubernatorial debate sounds off on abortion and a missing candidate

Candidates said they would fire prosecutors who refuse to follow the law
Published: Jun. 28, 2022 at 6:16 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HOWARD, Wis. (WBAY) - What was billed as the first primetime debate among the top Republican candidates for governor had one no-show Monday night in Howard.

Three of the top four candidates for governor were on the stage and taking questions at Providence Academy. The other candidate, Tim Michels, instead held a rally in the Lomira area.

The issue of abortion was on the top of their minds after Friday’s Supreme Court ruling and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers saying he would offer clemency to doctors who are convicted under Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion ban.

The Republicans running for governor say if they’re elected, that kind of rhetoric won’t be tolerated. All of them fired to promise district attorneys who don’t enforce the abortion ban.

“The simple answer is, the law on the books make is quite clear when and where abortion is legal in the state of Wisconsin. Those district attorneys and prosecutors who refuse to follow the law, yes, as governor I will fire them,” Kevin Nicholson said.

“To allow them to continue to say these things and not be held accountable will just foster everyone’s belief that they can do the same, and we will have a lawless society,” state Rep. Tim Ramthun said.

Former Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch said she would even fire DA’s who don’t prosecute other state laws, “Whether it is on protecting the unborn, whether it is on refusing to prosecute election fraud, or whether it is on being soft on crime.”

We caught up with Michels at his rally. His response to the abortion question was, “People in office need to answer to the hard-working, tax-paying, law-abiding citizens of Wisconsin. For the governor or A.G. to say I’m not going to enforce the law, who do they think they are?”

Michels was criticized heavily by the other candidates for not attending the debate, who pointed out the empty podium. In fact, the very first question focused on his decision to skip the event.

Article continues below the video

Rebecca Kleefisch, Kevin Nicholson and Timothy Ramthun referred to the empty podium for Tim Michels, who's considered the front-runner

Michels is considered the front-runner right now, according to recent polling, even if it’s by just a slim margin. His absence Monday night failed to give opponents an opportunity to face off one-on-one.

“I’m as frustrated as you all are. We showed up because we care about the voters of Green Bay, we care about the people of Wisconsin, and we want to have a debate on the issues, but unfortunately Tim Michels does not,” Kleefisch said.

Since announcing his campaign, Michels hasn’t done as many media interviews as the other candidates. He’s focused heavily on scripted speeches and statements.

“There’s questions about the ballots, the signature petitions that he turned in, and there’s issue regarding his residency,” Ramthun said, “so I think there’s gray clouds all over the place when it comes to running for office, and the public needs to know where your heart truly is at.”

“If you’re in this fight, and if you care, and if you’re worried about your kids and what they’re being taught in Wisconsin schools, then you don’t educate them in Connecticut, and you sure as heck don’t disappear for ten years when we needed you here,” Nicholson said.

Michels’s campaign staff told us he couldn’t attend the debate because of the rally, although the rally wasn’t scheduled until Sunday night.

Copyright 2022 WBAY. All rights reserved.