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With Trump's backing, Michels wins the Wisconsin GOP primary for governor

Tim Michels, Wisconsin Republican candidate for governor, right, speaks as former President Donald Trump listens at a rally Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, in Waukesha, Wisc.
Morry Gash
Tim Michels, Wisconsin Republican candidate for governor, right, speaks as former President Donald Trump listens at a rally Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, in Waukesha, Wisc.

About a day after the FBI raided former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home and resort, his pick for Wisconsin governor has won the Republican primary, according to a race call by The Associated Press.

Late in the campaign, Trump endorsed construction executive and self-described political newcomerTim Michels who spent millions of his own dollars on a TV ad blitz, painting himself as a businessman and "outsider" who wants to turn government upside down.

Michels may not earn his living in politics, but he's not a political newcomer. He first ran for office in 1998, losing a Republican primary for state Senate to now-U.S. Rep. Scott Fitzgerald. In 2004, Michels ran for U.S. Senate, winning a GOP primary but losing the general election to former Democratic U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold.

After the backing of the former president in this race, Michels shot up in the polls and ran a competitive campaign against Rebecca Kleefisch, who was lieutenant governor under former Republican Gov. Scott Walker for eight years. Kleefisch was also supported by former Vice PresidentMike Pence.

Michels hasn't gone as far as Trump when it comes to the way he describes the 2020 presidential election, but he has cast doubt on President Biden's victory in Wisconsin, which was affirmed by a statewide canvas, a partial recount and multiple state and federal court decisions. When asked at a recent debate whether he'd sign legislation that would "decertify" Biden's 2020 victory in Wisconsin, Michels kept his options open.

Michels vs. Evers in November

In 2018, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers won the election for governor by a sliver and the race in 2022 between Michels and Evers could be just as close.

The governor has incumbency and a decent approval rating on his side. Evers is regularly at odds with Republicans in the state and has set veto records. In many ways, his veto is the only thing standing in between the large GOP majorities in the legislature and measures like making it easier to carry concealed guns and election law changes that would likely become law under Michels.

To many in Wisconsin, Michels policy agenda is a mystery. While he's laid out some of what he'd prioritize if elected, big questions remain about how he would govern.

But the spotlight of the campaign has prompted Michels to take stands on some issues. In early July, his campaign didn't respond when asked by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel whether he would ban emergency contraceptives, known as Plan B. By mid-month, he told reporters he would not.

"I am against abortion," Michels said. "I am not against contraception."

Michels' stump speech lists three priorities as governor. He tells voters he's for "election integrity," referencing a package of changes that includes eliminating the Wisconsin Elections Commission. He said he also wants to reduce crime and reform education.

Copyright 2022 Wisconsin Public Radio

Shawn Johnson covers the State Capitol for Wisconsin Public Radio. Shawn joined the network in 2004. Prior to that he worked for WUIS-FM, a public radio station in Springfield, Illinois. There, Shawn reported on the Illinois legislature. He also managed the station's western Illinois bureau, where he produced features on issues facing rural residents. He previously worked as an Assistant Producer for WBBM-AM radio in Chicago.