Kevin Nicholson says Joe Biden won the election, criticizes opponents for not 'telling the truth'
PEWAUKEE(CBS 58) -- Republican candidate for governor Kevin Nicholson is bashing his opponents for not being truthful about the outcome of the 2020 presidential election and confirmed he believes Joe Biden won.
Nicholson, a U.S. Marine veteran and former candidate for U.S. Senate, launched his gubernatorial bid last month and said he doesn't question who won the 2020 presidential election, but has doubts in how it was administered.
When asked if Joe Biden won the election in Wisconsin, Nicholson confirmed without naming Biden directly.
"He's declared the winner," Nicholson said during an exclusive interview with CBS 58. "I believe he won a messy, sloppy, messed up election."
Other GOP candidates running for governor, former Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and State Rep. Timothy Ramthun are questioning the outcome.
Kleefisch said five months ago Biden won Wisconsin, but recently dodged the question when asked on a radio shows. Ramthun, who has been praised by former President Donald Trump, has unsuccessfully tried to rescind Wisconsin's 10 electoral votes to Biden, which top Republicans and nonpartisan attorney's have said is legally impossible.
Kleefisch's campaign spokesman Alec Zimmerman clarified she never changed her views on Biden's victory, arguing she's waiting to see the outcome of ongoing Republican investigations into the 2020 election.
On Monday, Kleefisch dodged the question again when asked to clarify whether she believes Biden won while making an appearance on a Green Bay radio show.
"Well, I think the better question is, did he win the state of Wisconsin fairly? And I think that answer going to wind up being no," Kleefisch said on WTAQ.
A nonpartisan audit and a review by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty both confirmed there was no widespread election fraud in the state, but did make dozens of recommendations to improve elections. Biden's narrow victory by about 21,000 votes has also been upheld by courts and recounts.
Nicholson attacked his opponents for not being truthful about the election, suggesting it could impact people's views.
"Telling the truth and just being honest and saying we cannot let our elections perform the way they did in 2020," he said. "We have to improve this process going forward or we are going to lose people's faith in government."
One thing all three candidates have in common is they share the similar concerns over how the election was carried out, questioning the use of absentee ballot dropboxes, ballot harvesting and showing support to overhaul the state Elections Commission.
Nicholson is casting himself as an outsider, running against what he calls a "broken GOP machine."
He took shots at Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Kleefisch, blaming them for tearing the party apart and being inconsistent on their views over dropboxes and ballot harvesting.
Vos has not clarified his stance on dropboxes after his attorney signaled some support for them in 2020. Unmanned drop boxes have been the center of several lawsuits, as Republicans are seeking to limit how many can be placed in municipalities.
Kleefisch told a crowd of supporters in October they should "hire mercenaries" and use "ballot harvesting" to help her and other Republicans win. Ballot harvesting is a term used to describe a group of people who collect absentee ballots from voters and return them to the clerk's office.
Currently, the practice is not illegal in Wisconsin and Kleefisch has committed to banning it if elected.
Nicholson argued Kleefisch and Vos are giving mixed signals to the base and believes it's part of the reason voters are frustrated with how the party is performing after losing the last 11 out of 12 statewide elections.
"This kind of variability and putting your finger in the wind type of action creates nothing but problems for the way society preserves you as a potential leader," Nicholson said.
Nicholson, who lost the Republican Party of Wisconsin's nomination in 2018, has also been advocating for a non-endorsement option at the state convention in May. He said the process is exclusionary and is costing Republicans to win elections.
The Assembly Minority leader, Rep. Jim Steineke, dismissed the non-endorsement effort and defended their leadership at the Capitol.
"I know there's people from the outside trying to drive us apart and I think that will do a disservice not only to the caucus but the future of this state as we look to the next election," Steineke said.
Vos, Kleefisch and Ramthun did not respond to requests for comment.