By TODD RICHMOND and SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The only Republican candidate running for governor in Wisconsin who had supported keeping the bipartisan state elections commission in place reversed his position Wednesday, calling for it to be dissolved hours before the panel was to vote on who would be its next chairman.
The construction company co-owner Tim Michels said in a statement that he now supports doing away with the commission after speaking with attendees at the Wisconsin Republican Party convention last weekend, including commissioner Bob Spindell. Spindell, who is running to be the next chair of the commission, was one of 10 Republicans who tried to cast Electoral College votes for former President Donald Trump in Wisconsin, even though he lost.
The next chair of the commission will hold the position heading into the November election and in the lead up to the 2024 presidential election in battleground Wisconsin. The chair by state law approves the vote canvass following elections and certifies results. The chair also sets the agenda for the commission and can exert influence over how questions are framed, an important power on the board that is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.
Spindell would need at least one of the commission’s three Democrats to vote for him in order to be elected. State law requires the next chair to be a Republican and the only other commissioner allowed to seek the post is Dean Knudson, a former state representative. Knudson said on Tuesday that he did not anticipate having any comment before the commission’s meeting.
Michels three weeks ago said he wanted to keep the commission in place but make changes to it. Now he wants it abolished, the same position as other GOP candidates Rebecca Kleefisch, Kevin Nicholson and state Rep. Timothy Ramthun. The winner of the Aug. 9 primary will advance to face Gov. Tony Evers, who supports keeping the commission in place.
“While this evolution may be uncommon in politics, I’m not a politician,” Michels said in a statement. “I’ve come to the conclusion the WEC is not salvageable. To have non-elected officials overseeing the administration of elections has proven to be fundamentally flawed.”
Michels did not say what he wants to replace the commission with and did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
Spindell does not support doing away with the commission. Spindell and the other fake GOP electors were sued last week.
Kleefisch on Wednesday threw her support behind Spindell to be the commission’s next chair “to ensure that our laws are followed this election cycle.” If Kleefisch gets her way, the commission won’t exist for the next election.