Pence endorses Kleefisch in Wisconsin governor race, setting up latest proxy battle with Trump

MADISON, Wis. — Former Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday endorsed Rebecca Kleefisch in the race to become Wisconsin’s governor, putting him at odds with former President Donald Trump, who endorsed rival candidate Tim Michels.

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Pence described Kleefish as “the only candidate that will deliver a stronger and more prosperous Wisconsin.”

“Rebecca has a proven conservative track record and will draw on her experience to give parents more control of their children’s education, grow the economy and get Wisconsin back to work, fight for traditional conservative values, and make Wisconsin streets safer,” the former vice president said. “Conservatives across the Badger State can fight back against the radical left in Wisconsin and join me in supporting Rebecca Kleefisch for governor.”

Pence’s endorsement comes less than two weeks ahead of the state’s August 9 primary election and one day after Trump’s staff announced he will hold an event to support Michels at the Waukesha County Fairgrounds on August 5. Trump threw his support behind Michels in early June, calling the businessman “the best candidate to deliver meaningful solutions” to issues ranging from inflation to election fraud and border security.

RELATED: Trump endorses Michels in GOP primary for Wisconsin gubernatorial race

“Tim is an America First Conservative who Supports our Second Amendment, Honors our Brave Law Enforcement and First Responders, and Stands Strongly against the Woke Mob trying to destroy our Country,” Trump said in a statement at the time.

The endorsement sets up the latest battle in a proxy war between Trump and Pence. Both stumped for rival candidates in Arizona on Friday, and each laid out vastly different visions for the Republican Party’s future during speeches in the nation’s capital earlier this week.

Like Trump prior to his presidency, Michels has not previously held elected office. Kleefisch served as Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor from 2011 to 2019 alongside former Gov. Scott Walker, who has endorsed her.

Kleefisch, Michels and state Rep. Tim Ramthun are vying to become the Republican nominee to face incumbent Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.