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Calls For Walker Recall Extend To Wis. Lt. Governor


You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is only the third governor in U.S. history to face recall. His swift move last year to curb collective bargaining rights for most public workers polarized the state. But there's another recall happening in Wisconsin that's getting far less attention, it's against Walker's lieutenant governor, Rebecca Kleefisch.

Wisconsin Public Radio's Shawn Johnson reports.

SHAWN JOHNSON, BYLINE: Wisconsin Democrats who want to wear their politics on their sleeves, their coats or their caps might be customers of Dennis Coyier.

DENNIS COYIER: Whoever they support, I've got the button for it. And I've got Anybody But Walker buttons, if they haven't decided yet.

JOHNSON: Coyier sells political buttons out of a pushcart in Madison. He's a professional carpet cleaner by trade and says he doesn't really care about the business of buttons. He just likes talking Democratic politics with the people who buy them.

COYIER: I've got some cute ones. I've got some recall Walker. I've got Walker's face that says nope instead of hope.

JOHNSON: But people looking for that perfect button to show how they feel about Walker's lieutenant governor will have to check back later. Coyier's got nothing in stock. He says Democrats want to recall Rebecca Kleefisch, but the focus is all on Governor Walker.

COYIER: Kleefisch really just doesn't come up. They're more intent to get rid of Walker and the agenda and assume that Kleefisch is going to be swept out with that agenda.

JOHNSON: The lack of attention to the lieutenant governor is not surprising given the office's low profile. Kleefisch has a paid staff of just four full-time employees, including herself. And yet, more than 800,000 Wisconsin residents signed recall petitions to oust her from office, a sign that the anger against Walker has spilled over to her. Scott Walker's campaign favored someone else to run as his lieutenant governor in 2010. But if that bothers Rebecca Kleefisch, you wouldn't know it from the way she promotes the governor's agenda, including his stand on collective bargaining.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR REBECCA KLEEFISCH: If he is the CEO, I guess I am the CMO, the chief marketing officer, because we need to be out there selling Wisconsin.

JOHNSON: Kleefisch ran her first campaign in 2010. She portrayed herself as a minivan-driving mom and told voters about her previous career in television.


KLEEFISCH: Hi, I'm Rebecca Kleefisch. You might remember me as a watchdog reporter.

JOHNSON: But like everything else in Wisconsin politics these days, this race for lieutenant governor is about Scott Walker. Kleefisch embraces the Walker factor. She warns Republicans that unlike in regular elections, she won't share a ticket with Walker. People have to vote in both races. And if they don't, Republicans could win one office and Democrats could win the other. Kleefisch says that would be unacceptable.

KLEEFISCH: We are partners. We are a team. And that's why it's important that both members of the team are re-elected on June 5th.

JOHNSON: Kleefisch is next in line to be governor should Walker leave office for any reason. It's a point you're more apt to hear from her likely Democratic opponent.

MAHLON MITCHELL: There's not a lot of people that can answer me when I ask the question, what does lieutenant governor do? A lot of people say he wakes up every morning - or he or she wakes up every morning and checks the pulse of the governor.

JOHNSON: That opponent is Mahlon Mitchell, a firefighter and president of Wisconsin's firefighters' union. Mitchell says lieutenant governors become governors all the time, and it could happen in Wisconsin.

MITCHELL: In my opinion, all she's done has been a rubber stamp to Scott Walker and his policies. And for that case, she's got to go as well.

JOHNSON: It's an easy sell for Mitchell to make to Democrats just as Kleefisch's message goes over well with Republicans. Their challenge is making a handful of voters in the middle care about the unprecedented recall nobody is talking about. For NPR News, I'm Shawn Johnson in Madison. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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.

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