The national Tea Party Express has been a prominent player on the Wisconsin recall scene for nearly a year, and on Monday, it promised to remain one until Election Day.
In a joint press conference in Milwaukee, Amy Kremer, chairman of the Tea Party Express, publicly endorsed Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who is facing a challenge from Democrat Mahlon Mitchell in the June 5 recall election.
“I want people around the country to know the accomplishments of the lieutenant governor and how she has been a strong conservative supporter for Governor (Scott) Walker and stood behind him,” Kremer said, as Kleefisch stood by her side. “They have been working hand in hand to make sure (good) things happen for the citizens of Wisconsin.”
Kremer said the Tea Party Express will be in Wisconsin on June 1 for a bus tour through the state. She said it is not uncommon for the group, the largest and one of the most prominent tea party organizations in the nation, to endorse candidates at a federal level, but said Wisconsin is a special case.
“This is, we believe, ground zero heading into going into November’s general election,” Kremer said. “People across the country are paying attention … We’ve been focused on what’s happening here.”
Tea party groups nationwide have been involved with the Wisconsin recalls for some time. In January, Wisconsin Grandsons of Liberty and We The People of the Republic recruited nearly 10,000 volunteers to .
Another tea party group, The Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama, has been sending out emails regularly in an effort to raise money to help fight the Walker recall.
And last August, when six Republican state senators faced recall opposition, the Tea Party Express . At a Thiensville rally in the 8th Senate District, where incumbent Sen. Alberta Darling was being challenged by Democratic state Rep. Sandy Pasch, several hundred supporters came out, though Darling herself did not make an appearance.
Kleefisch, however, eagerly accepted the endorsement from Kremer and the tea party with a little more than two weeks before the election. She said she spoke at her first tea party event four years ago, believes in the movement and continues to support the tea party’s direction and beliefs.
“I wanted to make sure people understand how grateful I am for this endorsement and recognition, not just that I stand shoulder to shoulder with those who seek to preserve the liberties and freedoms that we have in this country but also those who understand that our governor needs his best partner in the lieutenant governor’s office,” Kleefisch said.
Kleefisch said as lieutenant governor she has served the role of jobs ambassador, leading several small business roundtable discussions on how to improve the business atmosphere in the state. She said she has approached out-of-state businesses about coming to Wisconsin, and has spent time working on improving workforce development and matching up unemployed workers with open jobs.
The Tea Party Express’ endorsement was met with criticism from Mitchell’s camp, where Kleefisch was accused of relying on “out-of-state right-wing radicals.”
“I am proud to have the support of police officers, firefighters, teachers, nurses, electricians, and other middle class men and women throughout Wisconsin,” Mitchell said in a news release. “We need to bring Wisconsin back together. Middle class families cannot afford the Walker-Kleefisch Tea Party agenda that is dividing our state.”
Kremer said Kleefisch needs the support and help from “people across the country and people in Wisconsin,” and that the recalls are frivolous and a waste of taxpayers’ money. She said Kleefisch and Walker should be lauded, not recalled.
“Washington and Wisconsin are very similar, except that Wisconsin is on the right path and Washington is on the wrong path. We actually think Washington could take a lot of lessons from Lieutenant Governor Kleefisch and Governor Walker," Kremer said.
"When you look at what’s going on in Washington, where the Senate had not passed a budget in over three years and the only answer is to tax and spend and tax and spend and tax and spend some more, it doesn’t work," she added. "You compare that to what happened here in Wisconsin when the governor and lieutenant governor took office, a budget was passed right away and they closed that $3.6 billion deficit.”