Wisconsin’s longtime Democratic Secretary of State abruptly resigns

MADISON, Wisconsin — Longtime Democratic Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette abruptly resigned Friday, saying he would be leaving his 11th term after three months “to focus on my personal needs” after watching how the office was stripped of its power in the past 50 years.

Gov. Tony Evers appointed former Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, who ran for the US Senate last year but dropped out before the primary, to serve the four-year term. The Wisconsin Secretary of State has not been responsible for elections since 1974 and has almost no official duties.

“After many years of frustration, I have decided that I do not want to spend the next three and a half years running an office without adequate resources and staffing,” said 82-year-old La Follette in his resignation letter.

He did not immediately respond to a phone message left asking for comment.

La Follette won re-election in November over a Republican who wanted to shift voting duties into office. La Follette said before the election that he was running again to ensure Republicans couldn’t use the office to overturn a Democratic presidential victory in the state in 2024.

He has not campaigned very intensely and said he was afraid of contracting COVID-19 during the campaign. However, those fears didn’t stop him from vacationing in Africa in June. In the end, his notoriety was enough to lead him to victory as he had for years.

La Follette is a distant relative of “Fighting” Bob La Follette, a progressive Wisconsin governor and presidential candidate in 1924. A Madison high school is named for Bob La Follette, and state Democrats still consider him a progressive champion today.

Evers, also a Democrat, thanked Doug La Follette for his decades of service and named Godlewski as his successor.

“In a critical position that has not seen a change in decades, it could not be more important to maintain continuity with a leader who is willing and committed to fulfilling the constitutional obligations of that office – and there is no one more unique qualified or better suited for this job than Sarah,” Evers said in a statement.

Godlewski, 41, was 1 year old when La Follette began his current career as Secretary of State.

Godlewski said she was humbled by the appointment. She becomes the third woman to hold this position in state history. She served one term as Treasurer from 2018 to 2022.

She ran for the US Senate on a pro-abortion platform last year, but dropped out of the race ahead of August’s primary after falling double-digits behind Democratic leader Mandela Barnes in public polls. Her name stayed on the primary ballot, but Barnes won the nomination. He then lost to Republican US Senator Ron Johnson.

“To become only the third woman in our state’s history to hold this office is a once-in-a-lifetime honor,” Godlewski said. “I know how important this role and my responsibilities are and I look forward to the work.”

Godlewski, a native of Eau Claire, formerly worked on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns in both 2008 and 2016.

Before running for treasurer in 2018, Godlewski led a bipartisan coalition opposing a measure on the ballot this spring that would have eliminated the post of treasurer. Voters rejected it, leaving the office of state treasurer, but with few official duties.

Doug La Follette was first elected Secretary of State in 1974. After a failed bid for lieutenant governor in 1978, he won the office in 1982 and was re-elected ten times.

Republicans gradually stripped the bureau of nearly all duties and staff, relegating Doug La Follette to a cramped office in the Capitol basement. Since the 2020 presidential election, however, Republicans have been considering shifting election oversight to the secretary of state.

Amy Loudenbeck, the Republican who defeated La Follette in November, said those who voted for La Follette should be “upset” and those who voted for her “should be outraged.”

“This move, coming so soon after the election, once again raises questions about the tactics being used by those in power who will do whatever it takes to retain that power,” she said in a statement.

Wisconsin Republican Party leader Brian Schimming said Godlewski “will self-promote and use the office to prepare for her next campaign.” ”

“Now we see why Godlewski withdrew from the US Senate race, apparently having been promised a soft landing,” he said.

Source : www.washingtontimes.com

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