Wisconsin Democratic Secretary of State La Follette resigns
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Longtime Democratic Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette abruptly resigned on Friday, saying he was leaving three months into his 11th consecutive term “to focus on my personal needs” after seeing the office being stripped of its power over the past 50 years.
Governor Tony Evers nominated former Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, who unsuccessfully ran for the US Senate last year, to serve the four-year term. Wisconsin’s secretary of state has not been in charge of elections since 1974 and has virtually no official duties.
“After many years of frustration, I have decided that I don’t want to spend the next three and a half years trying to run an office without adequate resources and staffing,” La Follette, 82, said in his letter. of resignation.
He did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu called on Evers to hold a special election, saying Godlewski’s nomination was “an insult to Wisconsin voters and our democratic process.”
Evers, also a Democrat, defended the nomination.
“In a critical position that has seen no turnover in decades, maintaining continuity with a leader who is prepared and committed to fulfilling the constitutional obligations of this office could not be more important – and there is no more qualified or better suited for the job than Sarah,” Evers said in a statement.
Godlewski, 41, was 1 when La Follette began his current consecutive run as secretary of state.
Godlewski said she was touched by the nomination. She becomes the third woman to hold this position in the history of the state. She served one term as Treasurer, from 2018 to 2022.
“I know how important this role is and my responsibilities are, and I can’t wait to get to work,” she said in a statement.
Godlewski ran for the US Senate last year on an abortion rights platform, but dropped out of the race before the August primary after falling behind Democratic frontrunner Mandela Barnes by double digits in public polls. His name remained on the primary ballot but Barnes won the nomination. He then lost to Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson.
Godlewski, a native of Eau Claire, previously worked on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2016.
Before running for treasurer in 2018, Godlewski led a bipartisan coalition that opposed a ballot measure that spring that would have eliminated the office of treasurer. Voters voted it down, leaving the office of state treasurer in place but with few official duties.
Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Brian Schimming said Godlewski “will promote himself and use the office to prepare for his next campaign.” ”
“We now see why Godlewski pulled out of the U.S. Senate race because she was apparently promised a soft landing,” he said.
La Follette was first elected Secretary of State in 1974. After a failed attempt at Lieutenant Governor in 1978, he again won the office of Secretary of State in 1982 and was re-elected 10 times.
Republicans gradually stripped the office of nearly all of its functions and staff and relegated La Follette to a cramped office in the basement of the Capitol. However, since the 2020 presidential election, Republicans have been considering transferring election oversight to the Secretary of State.
La Follette won re-election in November over Republican Amy Loudenbeck, who wanted to transfer electoral duties to the office. La Follette said before the election he was running again to make sure Republicans couldn’t use the office to undo a Democratic presidential victory in the state in 2024.
Loudenbeck criticized his resignation on Friday.
“This decision, which comes so soon after the election, once again raises questions about the tactics used by those in power who will do anything to retain that power,” she said in a statement.
La Follette did not campaign very hard, saying he was afraid of contracting COVID-19 during the election campaign. These fears, however, did not prevent him from taking a vacation in Africa in June. In the end, his name recognition was enough to carry him to victory, as he had done for years.
La Follette is a distant relative of Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette, a progressive governor of Wisconsin and 1924 presidential candidate. A high school in Madison is named after Bob La Follette and state Democrats still consider him today. today as a progressive champion.
Earlier this year, Doug La Follette led a fundraising campaign to have a plaque placed on the bust of Bob La Follette which hangs at the State Capitol.
This story corrects the number of times La Follette was re-elected from nine to 10. It also clarifies that La Follette was in his 11th consecutive term when he resigned.