Lt. Gov. Kleefisch, Grebe dropped as Republican delegates
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A close ally of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and longtime Republican activist who this week retired as chair of an influential conservative foundation told The Associated Press on Friday that he withdrew as a delegate to the GOP national convention because of his distaste for Donald Trump.
Michael Grebe was one of two at-large delegates the state Republican Party had previously announced would be attending the convention this month in Cleveland. The party announced Friday that Grebe and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who cited scheduling conflicts, were backing out.
Kleefisch has said she will support whoever is the nominee. But Grebe, who just retired as chairman of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, made clear in a one-sentence comment to AP that he does not support the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
“I decided not to go to Cleveland because I do not want to be part of a process that results in the nomination of Donald Trump,” Grebe said in a brief telephone interview. Grebe said he notified the party of his decision about a month ago. He has attended six previous national conventions, starting in 1984 — the last time Wisconsin voted for a Republican for president.
Grebe is one of the most prominent Republicans in Wisconsin to publicly announce their dislike of Trump. He served as Walker’s campaign chairman in 2010 and in his failed presidential bid last year.
He also is a former chairman of the Wisconsin GOP, a former counsel to the Republican National Committee, and was in charge of the national convention in 1996. He is also a former president of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents and was the Republican National Committee member from Wisconsin between 1984 and 2002.
For the past 14 years, he’s served as chairman of the powerful and influential Bradley Foundation based in Milwaukee. The $850 million conservative foundation has financially backed public policy experiments in Wisconsin such as welfare reform, public vouchers for private schools and curbs on collective bargaining and unions.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, in a 2009 speech, described Grebe as “my political godfather.” Ryan has endorsed Trump, while being critical of some of his remarks and positions.
Kleefisch and Grebe are being replaced by Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and longtime Republican activist Don Taylor.
They will serve among the 18 at-large delegates who are bound to vote for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the first round of balloting because Cruz won Wisconsin’s April primary. Of Wisconsin’s 42 delegates, 36 are bound to vote for Cruz until he releases them or fails to get a third of the vote at the July 18-21 convention.
Fitzgerald has been outspoken in urging Republicans to unite behind presumptive nominee Donald Trump.
Kleefisch withdrew as a delegate about a month ago due to scheduling conflicts, said her campaign manager Charles Nichols. Kleefisch will still attend the first three days of the convention, where she will participate in events as chair of the Republican Lieutenant Governors Association, Nichols said. After that she will return to Wisconsin late on July 20 for official state business, he said.
Four alternate delegates were also replaced. Those removed were Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, former Gov. Scott McCallum, former U.S. Rep. Mark Green and David Karst.
Steineke has been one of the most outspoken critics of Trump in Wisconsin. He had announced earlier this spring that he would not attend the convention given that Trump was the presumptive nominee.
They are being replaced by Van Mobley, a Trump supporter, and Sue Lynch, David Anderson and Jennie Frederick.
This story has been corrected to show there are 18 statewide delegates, not 10.