I finally got my chance to speak with Republican lieutenant governor candidate Rebecca Kleefisch Friday morning, but not as I'd expected; I sat down to breakfast with her.
Kleefisch, who is in the midst of a statewide tour, stopped by Mickey's Dairy Bar on Monroe Street near Camp Randall Stadium to briefly meet with media and talk about running mate Scott Walker's job creation plans. But when she and her traveling companions -- mother MaryJo Reed and Walker staffer Cullen Werwie -- went inside to eat, I couldn't resist inviting myself to join them.
Earlier I tried for a week to get a brief interview before writing an Isthmus article on the lieutenant governor candidates, but the Walker campaign did not allow it.
But this morning, between mouthfuls of her plain cheese omelet -- "I'm the ultimate Wisconsin girl" -- Kleefisch spoke freely with me about how Walker will use his influence as governor.
Specifically, she elaborated on how Walker will urge the Legislature to improve the state's business atmosphere by cutting small business taxes and reforming the state's commerce department into a "true" economic development agency, among other things.
"In order to reduce the impact of this deep economic recession, we need to come to the aid of small businesses in the state. The only way we do that is by asking the Legislature to take a look at small businesses … and how they're suffering," Kleefisch said. "Scott and I have traveled the state time and time again hearing the stories of how this recession has impacted people."
One of Walker's main goals with these measures, Kleefisch said, is to create 250,000 new jobs by the end of his first term in office and attract 10,000 new businesses to the state, a goal she is confident will come to pass.
In regards to the issue of stem-cell research at the University of Wisconsin, Kleefisch said she's proud of UW's status on the forefront but emphasized the use of adult stem cells instead of embryonic stem cells for research.
"I'm proud that our university system and the teaching hospitals in Wisconsin are on the cutting edge of medical research, but the answers are not with destroying embryos for research," Kleefisch said. "The advancements that come in stem-cell research come from adult stem-cell research." (Many experts would disagree, saying embryonic cells hold much great potential.)
But politics was not the only topic of conversation, as Kleefisch talked about her scare with colon cancer in late August and her quick, successful treatment.
She said she was able to get immediate attention under the state health insurance plan of her husband, Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc), while suggesting this would not have been so easy under the national health care reform passed by Congress earlier this year.
"If you look at socialized medicine and oftentimes the lines that you're forced to wait in under what is essentially a rationed health care system, it would be very scary to me that I wouldn't be able to get a CT scan 20 minutes after I got my diagnosis," Kleefisch said. "I couldn't have afforded to wait six months for a CT scan."
After we finished eating, Kleefisch's mother and Werwie both reminded her that she needed to stick to her schedule and be on time for her next campaign stop in De Pere around noon.
"I've spent a lot of time on the road," Kleefisch said. "I have a sister who lives pretty far into Iowa and now I say that drive is nothing."