The Republican gubernatorial nominee in Wisconsin had a bold and alarming promise for voters at a campaign stop this week: if he’s elected, he said, Wisconsin would never be under Democratic control ever again.
“Republicans will never lose another election in Wisconsin after I’m elected governor,” gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels said to supporters on Monday.
Michels, who came under fire for calling for violence against journalists earlier this election cycle, is an executive of a major construction and energy corporation, the Michels Corporation. He has been endorsed by President Donald Trump and has repeatedly spread Trump’s “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was stolen, despite there being no evidence to back this claim.
A recording of Michels’s statement was shared by American Bridge 21st Century, a Democratic-aligned Super PAC, on Twitter. Michels “said the quiet part out loud,” the group wrote, adding, “Democracy is on the line in Wisconsin. Michels must be stopped.”
If Michels’s past statements are any indication, he is serious about his pledge. He has said that he would be open to signing a bill decertifying the results of the 2020 election in his state — results that he has publicly questioned — and won’t commit to saying whether or not he would certify the result of the 2024 election if the Republican candidate loses.
Michels has also pledged to replace Wisconsin’s state elections commission, which is the agency tasked with running elections in the state, and has not specified how he would run elections in the state in the future.
If elected, Michels will indeed have sway over election results. He could simply refuse to certify election results if they don’t go his way — and though there are checks to his power in place, like election officials at other levels or the courts, he could pressure the legislature to change election laws to give partisan officials more power.
Such a move in any state— to ignore the will of voters at the whim of far right officials — could be the end of democracy as we know it.
The pledge to cement one-party rule in the state is one of the clearest statements that a mainstream Republican candidate has made in support of fascism in this election cycle.
Republicans have made their alliance to fascism clear in other ways, however. They have shown that they are willing to resort to intimidation and violence over election results they’re unsatisfied with, and are working across the country to install operatives at every level, from the grassroots to the White House, to ensure Republicans take office regardless of the will of voters.
Trump’s Big Lie about voter fraud has taken over the party, with GOP candidates for federal or state office in every state in the U.S. doubting the result of the 2020 election. It is not a detriment to candidates to blatantly deny the will of voters; in fact, the strategy appears to be a boon to candidates, who use election denial to get Trump’s endorsement. Refusing to embrace the lie, on the other hand, has proved a major liability for Republicans.
As such, despite Michels’s alarming far right views, he is in a dead heat with his Democratic opponent Tony Evers, according to polls aggregated by FiveThirtyEight.
Evers has criticized Michels for his remark. “Folks, we’ve known this for awhile — Tim Michels is a danger to our democracy,” Evers wrote on Twitter. “When you head to the polls on Election Day, remember that we’re fighting to protect our democracy, voting rights, and free, fair, and secure elections.”