Republican group rolls out ‘significant’ ad campaign for Wisconsin’s second in command

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. — The Badger State’s quiet race is about to get a bit noisier.

Wisconsin’s race for lieutenant governor has all but been drowned out by the din of the battle for governor — a bitter contest caught in the national spotlight.

With less than a month to go before the general election, there hasn’t been much in the way of political advertising for either of the main candidates vying to be the state’s second-in-command — incumbent Republican Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch or her challenger, state Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine.

THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM? Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch campaigns in the closing days of the 2012 recall election. She is running for lieutenant governor for the third time in four years.

At least not until now.

The Republican State Leadership Committee is rolling out a major ad campaign in support of Kleefisch’s re-election bid.

The RSLC, a 527, tax-exempt group devoted to electing down-ballot, state-level Republican officeholders, plans a “multiplatform, statewide effort with digital ads and targeted radio,” according to spokeswoman Jill Bader.

Bader declined to disclose the exact cost of the ad campaign, but tells Wisconsin Reporter that it is a “significant six-figure investment in supporting the reforms and record of the Walker-Kleefisch administration.”

The campaign will highlight the successes of Gov. Scott Walker and his lieutenant, now running for their offices for a third time in for years – including their big victories in the organized labor-led recall elections of 2012.

In the first radio ad, titled “Jobs Ambassador,” RSLC touts Kleefisch’s work creating “new opportunities for middle-class families.” The ad opens by painting the lieutenant governor’s down-home qualities, asserting that she is “one of us.”

“She’s a mom and a Packers fan. She can shoot a wild turkey and send the Madison special interests running for cover,” the ad declares. “Under Scott Walker and Rebecca Kleefisch, Wisconsin is once again open for business.”

The radio spot notes the 100,000-plus jobs created in Wisconsin since Walker took office, the $2 billion in tax cuts pushed and approved by the administration and the Republican-controlled Legislature and the tuition freeze at Wisconsin’s public universities.

SILENT AIRWAVES: State Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, has done little advertising thus far in his bid for lieutenant governor.

Team Walker-Kleefisch’s opponents, Madison school board member and former Trek Bicycle Inc. executive Mary Burke and Lehman, have blasted Walker for not hitting his 2010 campaign pledge that Wisconsin’s economy would create 250,000 jobs in his first term. Walker and Kleefisch have fired back that the positive jobs numbers are a significant improvement from the 130,000 jobs lost during the last years in office of Walker’s predecessor, Democrat Gov. Jim Doyle, and the comparably anemic job growth figures posted when Burke served as Doyle’s commerce secretary.

The airwaves in recent weeks have been flooded with ads for Burke and Walker, but nothing in the way of TV or radio political messages for the candidates for lieutenant governor.

Kleefisch did do a radio spot pitching the budget-balancing accomplishments of the Walker administration, that began with a $3.6 billion state budget shortfall. That commercial rolled out earlier this month and was paid for by Walker’s campaign.

Lehman hasn’t done much beyond sending out media releases and appearing on WisconsinEye, the state’s public affairs site.

That has much to do with his comparatively light campaign war chest.

Lehman’s latest campaign fundraising filings, as of early August, show the Democrat had $40,904.24 cash on hand. He raised $29,898 in the most recent pre-election period. He noted another $1,500 in a special late contributions report.

Kleefisch reported $743,278.86 in cash on hand and another $49,500 in the subsequent report of late contributions.

Lehman did not return a call seeking comment regarding his political advertising plans.

In an position statement written for the Capital Times, a left-leaning Madison publication, Lehman railed against his conservative opponent and the Republican governor liberals love to hate.

“I am running for lieutenant governor because I have had enough of the extreme far-right agenda, and I know Wisconsin can do better,” he wrote. Unlike on his campaign site, Lehman did not list his long list of public-sector labor union backers.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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