No GOP candidate for governor secures endorsement at state convention

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MIDDLETON Wis. (CBS 58) -- Delegates at the Republican state convention voted to not endorse any of the candidates running for governor, a decision that puts the party's support and resources on hold until after the August primary.

The decision comes after earlier in the day delegates approved a resolution to include a "no endorsement" option on delegates' ballots.

After the votes were tallied, former Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch was just shy of the 60% threshold needed to secure the endorsement, with 55%, meanwhile 43% voted to not endorse on the final ballot.

Kevin Nicholson, State Rep. Tim Ramthun and Tim Michels all received votes in the single digits in the governor's race.

No endorsement in the competitive primary race means some candidates will likely have to work twice as hard to raise money without the financial support from the state party. For millionaire businessman Tim Michels, raising money won't be an issue, but for others it can produce challenges.

After falling short of winning the endorsement, Kleefisch said she didn't feel defeated and doesn't believe it will impact her fundraising efforts.

"What we saw in there was just the beginning," Kleefisch said. "I'm really proud of our fundraising and will continue to be on a tear. I’m familiar with the path of being an underdog."

In 2010, Kleefisch didn't win the party's endorsement during her lieutenant governor bid and untimely won in 2011, serving eight years with former Gov. Scott Walker.

Nicholson, who campaigned against the endorsement, called it a "victory", a majority of delegates opted to not endorse in the race. He argued the process was exclusionary and created unnecessary friction in the party after Republicans lost the last 11 out of 12 statewide elections.

"There is no doubt Rebecca Kleefisch wanted this [endorsement] incredibly badly and she lost it," Nichoslon said. "At the end of the day the people of Wisconsin won as a result."

Michels didn't ask for the endorsement during his speech to delegates. Instead he stressed the party should remain focused on their goal to defeat Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

"I am here to win, but I am not here to tear down this convention," Michels said. "Come August it’s going to take each and every one of us working together to build a united front that defeats Tony Evers."

Ramthun, who is running on an election integrity platform, took shots at the endorsement without talking about it directly. He also tried to separate himself from his opponents by touting his experience serving in the state Legislature and as vice president of the Kewaskum school board.

"It shouldn't be a popularity contest…It shouldn’t be about money. It should be about qualifications," Ramthun said.

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