There's a certain irony to the recall of Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. The office she has held since Jan. 3, 2011, comes with virtually no substantive statutory powers. She wasn't Gov. Scott Walker's pick for the post, but she is the target of a recall because of him.
There's also nothing to indicate that she has been part of Walker's inner circle or instrumental in his most brash and controversial policies - the curtailing of collective bargaining rights for public workers, for instance, or his billion-dollar cut to education.
Kleefisch's role, as is typical of Wisconsin lieutenant governors, has been largely symbolic. As she herself noted in a May 22 interview with Milwaukee Public Radio's Erin Toner, the lieutenant governor's duties are largely made up. She told Toner that she, in concert with the governor, determined that she would be Wisconsin's "jobs ambassador."
In that capacity, Kleefisch said, she travels the state to "listen to job creators." She has also held small-business roundtables around the state. Only 10 minutes of each 90-minute session, however, have been open to the press, so there is not much of a public record on the events.
Kleefisch said she also acts as a business recruiter. "I spend some time making contacts with folks from out of state who may be enticed to move to Wisconsin because we have laid the groundwork for good job growth there."
Kleefisch did not repeat her claim, which was determined "mostly false" by ef=http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2012/apr/25/rebecca-kleefisch/lt-gov-rebecca-kleefisch-says-her-cold-call-persua/>Politifact, that she was instrumental in luring FatWallet.com, an online business from Illinois, to relocate to Wisconsin.
Isthmus is grateful to Toner for the interview. Our four attempts to arrange an interview with Kleefisch to discuss her duties as lieutenant governor netted no response. Strange, given how much she apparently likes to talk. According to a notice on her website, that's pretty much the only way you'll get her to attend an event: "The Lt. Governor is unlikely to accept an invitation that does not include the opportunity to speak."
Kleefisch's website does offer some evidence of how she has been spending her time. There are photos of her at groundbreaking ceremonies, speaking at a Wisconsin Right to Life luncheon in Milwaukee on May 3, and talking to the National Federation of Independent Business at the Wisconsin Business Day in Madison on Feb. 16.
She posted a similar photo display on her campaign's Facebook page in July 2010 when she presciently asked the question many have for those occupying the lieutenant governor's office: "What is it you do?"
In the first photo Kleefisch poses, gun slung over her shoulder, with her "new friends" at the Safari Club International. One admirer commented: "Following Sarah Palin's request I see: 'Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!'"
Kleefisch, a Republican, recently received the endorsement of the National Rifle Association.
Kleefisch will face Democrat Mahlon Mitchell on June 5. Mitchell, who in January became the first African American to lead the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, was a high-profile presence at the Capitol protests, drawing statewide and national media attention.
Mitchell knows that if he prevails in his bid, his job duties would be unscripted. Like Kleefisch, he says he would focus on job creation. But he'd also add in education and a third issue that has gotten virtually no play in the recall election for governor: poverty.
He says in just the last year the state has seen a 17% increase in children living in poverty. Mitchell says the problem affects rural as well as urban areas.
"It's not a sexy issue, but it's a huge issue in our state," he says. "No one wants to talk about it, but I do."
If elected, Mitchell says he would be a liaison between the governor and the community - the "boots on the ground for the governor."
Mitchell notes that Walker appointed Kleefisch as co-chair of his Task Force on Minority Unemployment. Although state Rep. Elizabeth Coggs, a Democrat from Milwaukee, is the other co-chair, Mitchell says the panel is a "rubber stamp" for Walker's policies.
"I've been to Milwaukee, talked to key leaders and the African American Chamber of Commerce, and talked about the services they need. That's what you need to do - actually go into the community and be boots on the ground and the ear on the streets."
Unlike in the state's regular gubernatorial elections, the candidates for governor and lieutenant governor will not be paired by party on the ballot and voters will cast two separate votes. That means that Mitchell could end up serving with Walker or Kleefisch with Democratic challenger Tom Barrett. If he were to serve with Walker, Mitchell says he would do it "graciously" and to the best of his ability. But he is hoping for a Barrett/Mitchell victory.
"We need compromise and the ability to have people be able to sit at the table. We need to bring our state together and get to doing what's best for all."