Kleefisch doubles down on 'one throat to choke' comment, receives backlash from election officials

NOW: Kleefisch doubles down on ’one throat to choke’ comment, receives backlash from election officials

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A Republican candidate for governor is receiving backlash from a state election official and other Democrats for her comments about revamping the state elections commission.

Former Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch said last week on a radio show that she wants to overhaul the Wisconsin Elections Commission and give control to other officials to have "one throat to choke" if issues come up in future elections. The comments were first reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

On Tuesday, Kleefisch doubled down on those remarks after the Democratic chair of WEC, Ann Jacobs, criticized her rhetoric and noted it comes during a time election officials are experiencing increasing threats against them.

"Violent rhetoric ('one throat to choke') doesn't belong in discussions of election mgmt," Jacobs said in a tweet. "It encourages attacks and violence against election officials. If you want to 'choke' elections officials for doing their job, you don't belong in elected office."

Kleefisch responded, calling Jacobs' statement, "Manufactured outrage for her snowflake followers on Twitter."

"What I said is very commonly used in policy-making circles and talks about [election] accountability, and [Jacobs] knows that," Kleefisch said during a press conference in Milwaukee.

Dissolving the state elections commission has been a key talking point in Kleefisch's campaign, along with her GOP primary opponent Kevin Nicholson, who announced last week he's running for governor. Both support overhauling WEC and shifting the power to either the Legislature or the Secretary of State Office to oversee elections.

Threats Against Election Officials

Since the 2020 presidential election, state and local election officials have faced an increase of violent threats and many are still being targeted more than a year and a half later.

After Jacobs certified the 2020 election results for President Joe Biden, she said numerous threats were made against her and her family. She told the New York Times people were posting photographs outside her house and also mentioned threats towards her children.

Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg has also openly discussed an overwhelming amount of disturbing emails and voicemails she received over the results of the 2020 presidential election.

The Milwaukee Police Department and the FBI have investigated these threats, but no arrests have been made.

State Rep. Robyn Vining (D-Wauwatosa) called on her Republican colleagues to tone down the rhetoric about the election, but also believes it takes both parties to speak out.

"Words matter, how leaders talk matters," Vining said. "The fact that the rhetoric is not calming down, it's ramping up, should deeply concern all of us. We need to wave red flags and say it's time for us to change course, all of us, Democrats and Republicans."

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