KENOSHA, Wisconsin — Wisconsin Assemblywoman Samantha Kerkman, an ardent supporter of House Speaker Paul Ryan, could not explain on Saturday why Ryan has refused to do any public, open-to-press events with voters in the first congressional district before Tuesday’s election.
Kerkman, a state lawmaker who’s part of Ryan’s establishment network in Wisconsin, was sent to Republican businessman Paul Nehlen’s rally with conservative columnist, commentator, and 11-time New York Times bestselling author Ann Coulter on Saturday to bracket the event. It’s a common tactic establishment-leaning campaigns will use, where they will send a surrogate to try to work local media away from favorable coverage of an insurgent campaign and keep control of the narrative. But what’s shocking is how badly Kerkman did at bracketing for Ryan.
After this reporter introduced himself to her, she replied: “You don’t know who I am, so that’s a good thing.”
This reporter replied with her name and title in the Wisconsin state assembly, which was shocking to her, then Breitbart News asked whom she is supporting in the race between the Washington establishment candidate Paul Ryan and the Republican candidate Paul Nehlen.
“Obviously, I support Paul,” Kerkman replied, not originally specifying which one.
“Paul Nehlen or Paul Ryan?” Breitbart News followed up.
“Paul Ryan,” she answered, without any explanation as to why.
After Breitbart News asked her to explain why, Kerkman said that she supports Ryan simply because he is her friend.
“I’ve known Paul for years, he’s a great legislator, I’ve known him since before he was a legislator — so I’ve known him since about ’97, ’96,” Kerkman said.
When asked about Nehlen, Kerkman attacked him with responding to any of the substance of Nehlen’s issue-based campaign.
“I’m disappointed because everything that occurred here today doesn’t get us back on track,” Kerkman said when asked about Nehlen’s speech. “I’ve heard a lot of rhetoric today and Paul is somebody who, you know, works with integrity. He’s got a great family. He cares about this district. He’s back here every single weekend. There’s not a legislator that I know that works harder than him.”
But then, when asked about how Ryan’s campaign has yet to, in the last week, hold any events open to the public so the press and the voters of Wisconsin’s first congressional district can interact with him, she could not explain why.
“I don’t know those intricacies of the campaign,” Kerkman said. “I’m a friend of Paul Ryan who’s going to work hard for him to make sure he’s reelected.”
Here is a transcript of what happened next in that conversation between Breitbart News and Paul Ryan’s surrogate Samantha Kerkman:
BREITBART NEWS NETWORK: You’re saying he’s a supporter of the district.
SAMANTHA KERKMAN: He is.
BNN: How is that the case if he’s not doing any events open to the public between now and the election?
SK: I don’t know what Paul’s schedule is because you know what? I’m busy putting up yard signs for him and I — because I have my own race.
BNN: But you’re out here at a Nehlen rally.
SK: Because I ran out of signposts because I’ve got so many locations, so I’ve got to go to Somers and pick up more signposts and so…
BNN: Then why are you stopping at a Nehlen rally?
SK: Because I wanted to hear what he had to say because I’ve never met him. And most of my colleagues, you know what, I’m a state legislator. There’s 99 of us in Madison, and there’s 63 Republicans. I think I’m one of two that have actually met Mr. Nehlen, and I met him last week at the fair. He didn’t call me up to meet with me, yet I represent 57,000 people here in the first district so you know, I just wanted to hear what he had to say and it makes me sad because I think Paul does a fantastic job.
Interestingly, several things happened during that exchange. First, Kerkman said she was too “busy” placing yard signs around Wisconsin’s first congressional district for Ryan — and for her own reelection campaign — to understand why Ryan has shunned Wisconsin’s first congressional district for over a week. Second, her claim she was too busy fell apart when she tried to explain away why she came to a Nehlen rally. She says she was just stopping by because she ran out of yard signs on the way to nearby Somers, Wisconsin, to get more. And she says the reason she stopped by is to hear what Nehlen had to say because she has never met him before but, in the next breath, admits she did meet him the week before at the fair.
All of this comes on the heels of Ryan communications staffer Zack Roday telling Breitbart News last week that Ryan would, in fact, be doing open press events with the voters of Wisconsin’s first congressional district — the constituents he purportedly represents — between last week and the election on Tuesday. Roday has refused time and again to say when they will be, only telling Breitbart News that there will be such an event and an advisory will be sent out when the “logistics” of it are worked out. Roday has refused to answer on what day such an event will happen, and now that Sunday has come and gone, that simply leaves Monday — the last day before the election — for any such events. Roday and Ryan still have announced no such open-to-press events with the voters of the district.