Joint resolution calls for special election for Wisconsin Secretary of State

Senate Majority Leader Devin Lemahieu
Senate Majority Leader Devin Lemahieu(Wisconsin Legislature)
Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 9:45 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A Wisconsin Senate joint resolution introduced this week calls on Gov. Evers to hold a special election to elect someone to serve as the Secretary of State.

Last week, the governor announced he had appointed former state treasurer Sarah Godlewski to serve in the position after Doug La Follette resigned on Friday, three months into his 11th consecutive term in office.

Sens. Devin LeMahieu and Chris Kapenga introduced the joint resolution Monday, and it passed in State Senate Wednesday.

“The resolution the Senate passed today sends a clear message to Governor Evers: the people of Wisconsin should have an opportunity to vote to elect their Secretary of State,” LeMahieu said. “Instead of appointing an interim Secretary and calling a special election, Governor Evers has decided to subvert Wisconsin’s democracy to reward a political ally.”

The resolution passed in the Senate 20-11, with one abstention, and was sent to the State Assembly.

“Calling for a special election would reassure Wisconsinites that elections, not cronyism, decide who represents them in Madison,” LeMahieu added.

According to state Statute 17.19, when a vacancy happens in the Office of Secretary of State, the governor appoints someone to the position and the person appointed will hold office until a successor is elected. If no election is held, the person appointed will continue to hold office until the term ends. This also applies for the offices of treasurer, attorney general and state superintendent.

Gov. Tony Evers said Tuesday that La Follette “brought to my office a letter saying I’m sick of this stuff.” The governor did not elaborate on what La Follette was “sick of.” The governor explained he first heard about the possibility La Follette would resign last Tuesday, when the letter was written and three days before the news was made public.

Republicans quickly cried foul after the appointment of Godlewski, who had given up her treasurer role to take a shot at unseating Sen. Ron Johnson, only to drop out of the race in favor of the eventual Democratic nominee, then-Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.

Speaking toward why he picked Godlewski, Evers explained her role as treasurer intersected with the secretary of state’s office, citing as an example, the Board of Commissioners of Public Land. The governor went on to predict she would be a perfect fit, adding “I trust her implicitly.”

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