In January, Rebecca Kleefisch made some statements about gay marriage that upset many, comparing the union between two men or two women to the union between a woman and a clock.
Despite the apologies of Kleefisch, Scott Walker’s running mate in the race for governor, her uncle is urging Wisconsinites to vote against his niece’s ticket.
Chris Pfauser, Kleefisch’s uncle who is openly gay, is endorsing Tom Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee and a Democrat, in the race for governor.
“I’m shocked,” Pfauser told WISN in Milwaukee. “I would have never expected that rhetoric to come from [inside] my family.”
Kleefisch apologized for her remarks Thursday, saying she never intended to sound insensitive and only wanted to express her concern over preserving marriage.
Tom Nelson, Kleefisch’s Democratic opponent for lieutenant governor, said Kleefisch’s comments and Pfauser’s reaction will likely influence decisions at the polls.
“His warning is alarming – when a member of her own family is raising concerns that [Kleefisch] is completely unqualified for the office that she is seeking, voters ought to take note and I think they are,” Nelson said.
Additionally, Nelson said Pfauser’s protests should force voters to reevaluate their views on Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker.
However, Pfauser’s reaction to the comments is not as influential as voters’ initial reactions to the comments, said Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
“There’s been a lot of dismal campaigning, I mean really, really pathetic campaigning being done in 2010, and [Kleefisch's comments were] right up there,” McCabe said.
Voters that would most likely be persuaded by hearing how Kleefisch’s uncle feels probably already changed their mind once they heard her make the remarks in the first place, McCabe added.
Still, opinions of relatives can have an impact on voter decisions come election day.
Jay Heck, executive director for Common Cause in Wisconsin, said whenever a relative of a candidate running for office endorses the opposition, it causes voters to question and look for details.
“It’s never good for a candidate when someone in their own family says they’re going to support the other side – it’s certainly not a plus for Walker or Kleefisch and might have some minimal positive effect for Barrett and Nelson,” Heck said.
However, because candidates for lieutenant governor in Wisconsin are often a secondary consideration to the top of the ticket, Pfauser’s overall effect on the election will at most mobilize voters for one candidate based on issues like domestic partnership, Heck said.