By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican candidate for Wisconsin governor, Rebecca Kleefisch, announced Monday that she raised more than $3.3 million in the first four months since getting into the race in September.
The haul is one of the largest, if not the largest, for any candidate’s first fundraising report. A political action committee created to help Kleefisch, Freedom Wisconsin PAC, also reported raised $277,000.
Kleefisch is the biggest-name Republican seeking to unseat Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in November. Another Republican, 2018 U.S. Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson, is expected to get in the race soon.
Kleefisch’s high fundraising totals, along with her continued push to lock down Republican supporters, will serve as a deterrent to others getting into the race. Nicholson benefitted from about $11 million in spending from GOP megadonor Richard Uihlein in his 2018 Senate run, where he was defeated by Leah Vukmir.
If Uihlein backs Nicholson again as expected, millions could be spent in the Republican primary before the winner on Aug. 9 moves on to face Evers.
Wisconsin’s governor’s race is expected to be one of the most expensive and hotly contested in the country. Evers stands as a block to the Republican-controlled state Legislature and Democrats are desperate to keep him in place to stop the GOP agenda ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
Evers has not yet reported his fundraising totals for 2021, which would cover all 12 months of the year. Kleefisch launched her candidacy in September and her totals cover only the last four months of the year.
“In only four months, hard-working Wisconsinites from every corner of the state have embraced our grassroots movement,” Kleefisch said in a statement. “Our campaign has the infrastructure that will unite conservatives to take back Wisconsin and retire Tony Evers.”
Evers’ campaign spokesman had no immediate comment on Kleefisch’s fundraising numbers.
Her campaign released only the total of what she raised and that donations came from nearly 7,000 people in all 72 Wisconsin counties. Reports showing details including who donated to all the candidates, how much they spent and how much money they had on hand at the end of the year are due on Jan. 18.
Kleefich’s initial haul is the largest for any candidate’s first report over the past four gubernatorial elections. The previous high was $1.3 million reported by Republican Mark Neumann in 2010. Former Gov. Scott Walker raised $1.1 million over his first reporting period in 2009.
Kleefisch served eight years as Walker’s lieutenant governor.