Republican Governor Candidate Defends Wisconsin Ties

FILE - Tim Michels speaks to a large crowd during the launching of his gubernatorial campaign on April 25, 2022, in Brownsville, Wis. Michels said Monday, May 2, 2022, that he split his time between Wisconsin and homes on the East Coast in recent years because of work, but that he still votes in Wisconsin and spends the majority of his time in the state. (Ebony Cox/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP File)
FILE - Tim Michels speaks to a large crowd during the launching of his gubernatorial campaign on April 25, 2022, in Brownsville, Wis. Michels said Monday, May 2, 2022, that he split his time between Wisconsin and homes on the East Coast in recent years because of work, but that he still votes in Wisconsin and spends the majority of his time in the state. (Ebony Cox/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP File)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican governor candidate Tim Michels defended his Wisconsin ties saying Monday he still votes and spends most of his time in the state, after a published report revealed his extensive real estate holdings on the East Coast and that his children attended high school there.

Michels went on talk radio to address a report by conservative website Wisconsin Right Now that detailed more than $30 million in properties Michels had bought in New York and Connecticut between 2015 and 2020. The report also showed that his children attended and graduated from high school on the East Coast between 2013 and 2021.

Michels is in a four-way Republican race for governor. The winner of the Aug. 9 primary will advance to face Democrat Tony Evers.

Michels, who entered the governor’s race last week, said in an interview Monday with conservative talk radio host Dan O'Donnell that he has lived in Wisconsin the minimum 183 days a year to maintain residency, both for voting and paying taxes. He lived a majority of 2015 in New York and paid taxes there that year, he said.

Michels has paid more than $11.2 million in personal income taxes in Wisconsin over the past 10 years, including $7.8 million over the past five years, his campaign said.

To run for a governor, a candidate must be a qualified voter in Wisconsin. Records maintained by the Wisconsin Elections Commission show Michels has voted in Wisconsin regularly over the past decade, including both in-person and absentee.

Michels said the only time he voted absentee was to cast a ballot early from Wisconsin.

“I’ve never dropped a ballot in the mail from any other state,” he said.

Michels said his family decided to buy property in New York City after his construction business, Michels Corp., won a $201 million contract for subway work there in 2013. That project ended in 2016.

“We did the right thing for our family,” Michels said. “I did the right thing for the company. But I’ve always been a Wisconsin resident. I go where duty calls, where things are tough."

Michels played up his Wisconsin roots at a launch event that he said was just down the street from where he grew up in Dodge County. He still owns a home in Hartland, in Waukesha County, and uses that address to vote. In 2020, Michels bought a $17 million home in Greenwich, Connecticut, and still owns the Manhattan penthouse he bought in 2015 for $8.7 million.

“We probably could have moved back a few years ago,” Michels said in the radio interview, but he said they did not want to disrupt their daughter’s senior year in high school. She graduated from a New York high school in 2019, according to the Wisconsin Right Now report.

Michels also mentioned that his son, now a freshman at Dartmouth, was a competitive sailor in high school and a top collegiate recruit.

“There's some very competitive sailing out on the east coast in Connecticut, some would say the most competitive, and it worked," Michels said. "He was, arguably, I don't think anyone could poke a hole in it, one of the top three recruits in the country last year.”

Michels Corp. won another $100 million project in Brooklyn, after the subway one was completed, which also required him to be on site a lot, Michels said. He did not say if that project was ongoing and if he continues to split his time between Wisconsin and the East Coast. His campaign spokesman, Chris Walker, said he was looking into it.

“I’m the guy on the ballot. I’m the one that is running for governor because I can’t take it anymore,” Michels said in the radio interview. “Anybody who is trying to portray my family as being anything other than genuine Wisconsin hardworking people — it’s just plain politics.”