MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Republican Wisconsin state lawmaker was recorded on video telling constituents that Republicans need to “cheat like the Democrats or bend the rules” to win upcoming elections and also made a vague threat of violence against Gov. Tony Evers.
The video of state Rep. Elijah Behnke was posted online Thursday and was first reported about Friday by the Wisconsin State Journal.
In the wide-ranging 25-minute video, which appears to have been taken secretly by visitors in Behnke’s Capitol office, he disparages Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos as a “swamp creature” and supports debunked conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.
It’s not clear who took the video.
The video was posted the same day that Vos stripped Republican state Rep. Timothy Ramthun of his only staff member after Ramthun repeatedly called for the Legislature to undo Biden’s win in Wisconsin, which can’t be done. Ramthun also spread a false claim that Vos had signed a deal with former attorneys for Hillary Clinton to authorize absentee ballot drop boxes.
Vos and Behnke did not immediately reply to Friday messages seeking comment.
Behnke, who owns a cleaning business, also described his anger over Evers’ issuing a stay at home order early in the coronavirus pandemic. Behnke said he was “praying to God” that if he ever saw Evers, “I’m going to punch him, right? So here I am, I haven’t really seen him face-to-face yet, so we’ll see if I do.”
Evers’ spokeswoman, Britt Cudaback, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Ben Wikler called on Vos to disavow Behnke’s comments and launch an investigation. In the meantime, Wikler said Behnke should be removed from legislative committees he sits on and not be allowed to meet with Republicans in caucus.
Behnke, of Oconto, won a special election in April 2021 after former Rep. John Nygren stepped down.