Rebecca Kleefisch

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Rebecca Kleefisch
Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (cropped).jpg
44th Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin
In office
January 3, 2011 – January 7, 2019
GovernorScott Walker
Preceded byBarbara Lawton
Succeeded byMandela Barnes
Personal details
Rebecca Ann Reed

(1975-08-07) August 7, 1975 (age 44)
Pontiac, Michigan, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Joel Kleefisch
EducationUniversity of Wisconsin,

Rebecca Ann Kleefisch (née Reed; born August 7, 1975) is an American politician and former television news anchor, who was the 44th lieutenant governor of Wisconsin from 2011 to 2019.[1] A Republican, she was elected to the position on November 2, 2010 as the running mate of Governor Scott Walker, the pair lost re-election in 2018.[2]

In January 2019,[3] she was appointed to serve as the Executive Director of the Women's Suffrage Centennial Commission.[4][5]

Early life, education and career[edit]

Rebecca Ann Reed was born in Pontiac, Michigan. Her family later relocated to Ohio where she won the 1994 Miss Ohio Teen-USA title. On August 16, 1994, she competed in the nationally televised 1994 Miss Teen-USA pageant as Miss Ohio Teen-USA in Biloxi, Mississippi, but did not place in the competition. Reed graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.[6] She was a reporter for WIFR-TV in Rockford, Illinois, and then was a reporter and later morning anchor for WISN-TV in Milwaukee,[6] before leaving in 2004. Kleefisch formed her own company, Rebecca Kleefisch Enterprises, Inc. and was a contributor to Charlie Sykes' program on WTMJ Radio in Milwaukee.

Political career[edit]

Although Kleefisch's husband Joel had been a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly since being elected in 2004, Kleefisch's own first entry into politics began when she ran for Lieutenant Governor in 2010 and won a three-way primary race before being elected in November 2010. She declared her candidacy live via webcam from her kitchen table, expressing concern for the future of her children and touting her "kitchen table common sense."[7]

Kleefisch's campaign quickly garnered notice, including an appearance on Fox News to discuss the rise of conservative women called "Mama Grizzlies", a term coined by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.[8] Her campaign received wide recognition for its use of social media, employing heavy use of her Facebook[9] and Twitter[10] feeds to engage voters and build her message.

The Walker/Kleefisch ticket won the general election on November 2, 2010 and re-election on November 4, 2014.


Kleefisch made national news during the Wisconsin gubernatorial race in October 2010 when footage of an interview she had done just weeks after she announced her run was uncovered. The hour-long interview contained footage where she showed concern about changing existing marriage laws and discussed where marriage laws might go if changed. "This doesn't just have roots in the Bible. This has roots in fiscal common sense. We can't, at this point, afford to just be handing out money to anyone. This is a slippery slope in addition to that — at what point are we going to okay marrying inanimate objects? Can I marry this table, or this — you know, clock? Can we marry dogs? This is ridiculous. Biblically, again I'm going to go right back to my fundamental Christian beliefs, marriage is between one man and one woman."[11][12] The story became national news[13][14][15] after it was discovered that Kleefisch's uncle Chris Pfauser has been in an openly gay relationship for 18 years, and Pfauser said after hearing the comments that he would vote for his niece's opponent.

Kleefisch said in 2009 that there is "no consensus that people have caused climate change."[16]

In 2018, Kleefisch claimed that her campaign opponent Mandela Barnes was kneeling during the U.S. national anthem protests at the Wisconsin State Fair.[17] She later apologized for making the claim.[18]


Kleefisch at a "Women for Romney" rally at Marquette University, September 20, 2012

As she promised in her campaign, once elected, Kleefisch immediately began cold calling businesses from neighboring states, encouraging them to come to Wisconsin, which she declared "Open For Business". She was credited for helping to broker the growth of a Two Rivers, Wisconsin business. Formrite's owner, Dave Wage, said he contacted state officials regarding a potential $9 million-a-year contract with Caterpillar. Kleefisch was on the phone with him immediately. "She said, 'Dave, rest assured the state will do everything it can do … tell Caterpillar you are working with the state on funding for this project'", Wage recalled. The result was an expansion and addition of 60 jobs.[19]

Kleefisch was designated by Walker as the administration's liaison to Wisconsin's small business community. In that capacity, she hosted 25 Small Business Roundtables in 2011, traveling Wisconsin and listening to small business owners describe their situation and needs.[20] She also was selected to chair Walker's subcabinet on workforce investment that developed the Wisconsin Working Plan.[21] Kleefisch served as co-chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Opioid Abuse, chair of the Interagency Council on Homelessness, and as chair of the Aerospace States Association.


Following a contentious collective bargaining dispute in 2011, an effort began to recall Walker and Kleefisch. After examining petitions, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board determined there were more than 800,000 valid signatures to hold a recall election.[22] The recall election was held on June 5, 2012.[23] Kleefisch won the recall election.[24] Kleefisch is the only lieutenant governor in the history of any state in the United States to face recall election and ultimately survive a recall.[25]

Personal life[edit]

Kleefisch is married to former State Representative Joel Kleefisch, who was also a reporter for WISN-TV. They have two daughters.[26] They lived in Oconomowoc, located 16 miles west of Waukesha, Wisconsin, and were members of Crosspoint Community Church, a Christian & Missionary Alliance-affiliated megachurch in Oconomowoc. Since losing re-election, Kleefisch and her family moved to Concord, Wisconsin.[27]


In late August 2010, Kleefisch was diagnosed with colon cancer.[28] She had a tumor removed on September 2, 12 days before she won the primary election.[28] Although she is currently cancer-free, two days after she was elected, Kleefisch began elective chemotherapy to ensure that the cancer does not return.[29] By April 2011, she had finished chemotherapy treatment.[30]

Electoral history[edit]

Wisconsin gubernatorial election, 2018[31]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Tony Evers/Mandela Barnes 1,324,648 49.6
Republican Scott Walker/Rebecca Kleefisch (Incumbent) 1,293,799 48.4
Libertarian Phil Anderson/Patrick Baird 20,320 0.8
Democratic gain from Republican
Wisconsin gubernatorial election, 2014[32]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Scott Walker/Rebecca Kleefisch (Incumbent) 1,259,031 52.29
Democratic Mary Burke/John Lehman 1,121,490 46.58
Libertarian Robert Burke/Joseph Brost 18,375 0.49
Independent Dennis Fehr 9,004 0.37
Majority 137,541 5.71%
Total votes 2,407,900 100
Republican hold
Wisconsin lieutenant governor recall election, 2012 results[33]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Rebecca Kleefisch (Incumbent) 1,301,739 52.9
Democratic Mahlon Mitchell 1,156,520 47.1
Total votes 2,458,259 100.0
Republican hold
Wisconsin gubernatorial election, 2010[34]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Scott Walker/ Rebecca Kleefisch 1,128,941 52.29% +6.93%
Democratic Tom Barrett/ Tom Nelson 1,004,303 46.52% -6.24%
Independent Third Party/ Write-In 25,730 1.19%
Majority 124,638 5.77% -1.62%
Turnout 2,158,974
Republican gain from Democratic Swing
Wisconsin lieutenant governor Republican primary election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Rebecca Kleefisch 258,714 46.78
Republican Brett Davis 139,997 25.31
Republican Dave Ross 80,617 14.58
Republican Robert Gerald Lorge 52,076 9.42
Republican Nick Voegeli 21,040 3.80

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 'Wisconsin Blue Book 2011–2012,' Biographical Sketch of Rebecca Kleefisch, pg. 4
  2. ^ "Walker wins governor's race on promise of jobs", Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 3, 2010.
  3. ^ "Rebecca Kleefisch To Head National Group Commemorating Women's Suffrage". Wisconsin Public Radio. January 23, 2019. Retrieved February 15, 2019.
  4. ^ "Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch appointed executive director of the Women's Suffrage Centennial Commission". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved February 15, 2019.
  5. ^ Vetterkind, Riley. "Rebecca Kleefisch takes on new role in Washington". Retrieved February 15, 2019.
  6. ^ a b Sykes, Charlie. "Update: Rebecca Kleefisch Announces". WTMJ (AM). Retrieved December 29, 2010.
  7. ^ "Kleefisch Can". July 20, 2010.
  8. ^ Prast, Kyle (July 23, 2010). "Lt. Gov. candidate Rebecca Kleefisch on Fox & Friends". BrookfieldNOW. Retrieved March 31, 2012.
  9. ^ "Rebecca Kleefisch Official Facebook". Retrieved January 1, 2010.
  10. ^ "Rebecca Kleefisch Official Twitter". Retrieved January 1, 2010.
  11. ^ Bice, Daniel (October 28, 2010). "Kleefisch's uncle objects to anti-gay marriage statement". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved January 13, 2011.
  12. ^ "After Comments, Kleefisch's Gay Uncle Supporting Opponent", WISN 12 News, October 28, 2010.
  13. ^ "Kleefisch apologizes for gay marriage comment", The Boston Globe, October 28, 2010.
  14. ^ Shahid, Aliyah (October 29, 2010). "GOP candidate, Rebecca Kleefisch, in Wisconsin: Sorry for comparing gay marriage to marrying a dog". New York Daily News. Retrieved January 13, 2011.
  15. ^ "WI GOPer Apologizes For Comparing Gay Marriage To Bestiality Or Marrying A Table", Talking Points Memo DC, October 29, 2010.
  16. ^ Kleefisch, Rebecca. "Is it cold or is it just me?". RebeccaforReal. Archived from the original on June 5, 2012. Retrieved June 5, 2012.
  17. ^ "'Rebecca, for real?' Mandela Barnes calls Kleefisch's claims he knelt during anthem 'crazy'". September 17, 2018. Retrieved February 15, 2019.
  18. ^ Press, SCOTT BAUER Associated. "Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch apologizes to Mandela Barnes for claim he knelt during anthem". Retrieved February 15, 2019.
  19. ^ "Two Rivers plant to hire 60 new workers". State Representative Andre Jacque. Retrieved March 31, 2012.
  20. ^ Search results roundtable
  21. ^ "Governor Walker Introduces Initial Phase of "Wisconsin Working" Plan" (PDF). Retrieved March 31, 2012.
  22. ^ "GAB staff finds more than 900,000 valid signatures to recall Walker". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved March 30, 2012.
  23. ^ Ramde, Dinesh (March 14, 2012). "Judge approves May 8, June 5 recall dates". Wisconsin Law Journal. Retrieved March 31, 2012.
  24. ^ "Kleefisch survives recall". Retrieved June 5, 2012.
  25. ^
  26. ^ "Bio". Retrieved March 31, 2012.
  27. ^, Steve Sharp. "Rebecca Kleefisch settling into life after lieutenant governorship". Daily Jefferson County Union. Retrieved February 15, 2019.
  28. ^ a b Stein, Jason (September 29, 2010). "Kleefisch treated for cancer". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  29. ^ "Statement From Scott Walker and Rebecca Kleefisch" (Press release). November 4, 2010. Archived from the original on April 3, 2012. Retrieved March 31, 2012.
  30. ^ Schneider, Jim. "In Focus: Rebecca Kleefisch". WVCY-TV. Retrieved April 15, 2011.
  31. ^ "Wisconsin Governor Election Results". New York Times.
  32. ^ "Wisconsin gubernatorial election, 2014". WTMJ-TV. Milwaukee, WI. Archived from the original on November 7, 2014. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  33. ^ "Wisconsin Recall Election Results Map". Retrieved July 23, 2012.
  34. ^

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Barbara Lawton
Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin
Succeeded by
Mandela Barnes