The recall campaign launched against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) could also make the state's Tea Party-backed lieutenant governor the first state second-in-command to face a recall in U.S. history.
Leaders of the movement to recall Walker started circulating petitions today to recall Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (R) from office as well, seizing upon a quirk in the state law. Kleefisch was elected to the state's second-highest office as Walker's running mate in 2010.
State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen ruled this month that any movement to recall Kleefisch from office had to come separately from one to recall Walker, setting the stage for distinct elections for the two offices next year. While candidates for Wisconsin governor and lieutenant governor run in independent primaries, voters cast a vote for a single ticket in the general election.
"It is mostly because of the somewhat bizarre structure we have in Wisconsin with how lieutenant governors are elected," said Charles Franklin, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. "The fact that she is being included in the recall is about whether they could be on the same ballot."
While there have been two recall elections for governor -- North Dakota's Lynn Frazier in 1921 and California's Gray Davis in 2003 -- the National Lieutenant Governors Association did not know of any recall election against a lieutenant governor in history.
Kleefisch was not the choice of Walker or the party when she ran in the 2010 primary, according to Franklin, who said she won the GOP nomination based primarily on support from the Tea Party. Kleefisch defeated four opponents, including party favorite former state Rep. Brett Davis (R-Village of Oregon).
Kleefisch came under fire in the closing days of the 2010 campaign when it was reported she had questioned same-sex marriage earlier in the year on a radio program. On the radio show, she had questioned whether permitting same-sex marriage would allow for people to marry tables, clocks and dogs. As a result of the comment, Kleefisch's uncle, Chris Pfauser, who is gay, endorsed her Democratic opponent, Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson.
Kleefisch later apologized for the statement.
In a July speech to a Tea Party group, Kleefisch was quoted on video as saying that she believes one qualification to be governor is to be a "Christian man."
Kleefisch was a long-time television news reporter and morning news anchor on stations in Illinois and Wisconsin before turning her attention to politics. According to Kleefisch's LinkedIn account, she spent five years before her election running her own public relations and marketing firm, and serving as a conservative correspondent for two local television shows. She also lists a four-year stint emceeing a style show for the Oconomowac Hospital Auxillary as part of her professional background.
In office, Walker has tapped Kleefisch to focus primarily on small business issues, and she has served as the state's "jobs ambassador" conducting small business events around Wisconsin. Her official state website showcases videos of speaking engagements with small business groups, as well as appearances on Fox News discussing the Walker administration's record, including collective bargaining efforts.
Franklin noted that he could not comment much on Kleefisch's work in Madison, given the nature of her office.
"Our lieutenant governor has no official duties. She doesn't have much of anything to do, except what the governor asks her to do," he said. "I couldn't tell you anything she's done. I am not being critical. She has been no more invisible than her predecessor."
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