MADISON, Wisconsin – Democratic Gov. Tony Evers said on Tuesday it was “about time” for the Republican-controlled state Senate to vote to approve dozens of nominations that have been dragging on for months and years, including four of his cabinet secretaries.
On the agenda for Senate approval was Department of Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson; Randy Romanski, secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection; Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Secretary Missy Hughes; and Secretary of the Department of Security and Professional Services, Dawn Crim.
“I know they have been very busy,” Evers said of the Senate, when asked at a press conference on pending confirmation votes. “But we have amazing leaders waiting to be approved, a lot of people are already sitting on some committees and advising us on various issues that are really important. It’s about time.”
Confirmation votes were once pro forma exercises in the Senate, but they turned into another partisan battleground after Evers defeated incumbent Republican Gov. Scott Walker in 2018.
Republican leaders have delayed votes on some of Evers’ top candidates for months, allowing them to serve but leaving them vulnerable to impeachment. The Senate voted against Brad Pfaff’s confirmation as Agriculture Secretary in 2019, angering Evers so much that he called the move “political BS” and “amoral and stupid.” Pfaff went on to win a Senate seat as a Democrat in the 2020 election.
Republicans were suspicious of Thompson, saying they feared he had worked as a lobbyist on transportation issues and argued for higher taxes for road construction. They also expressed concerns about Crim, who was charged with child abuse in 2005 after pricking her 5-year-old son’s hand with a pen. The case was ultimately dismissed after Crim successfully completed the terms of a deferred prosecution.
The Evers administration and Republicans are also battling Sandra Naas, Evers’ choice to replace Natural Resources Council chairman Fred Prehn.
Prehn’s term expired in May and Evers appointed Naas to replace him, a move that would give those appointed by Evers majority control of a board that determines wildlife and environmental policy. Prehn, a person appointed by Walker, refused to resign, citing a 1964 state Supreme Court ruling that governors can sit until the Senate confirms their replacement. Republicans have made no move towards a vote on Naas.
Prehn was forced to cancel the September board meeting after Natural Resources Department officials said they had no business to discuss. Prehn accused the department of not wanting to work with him. Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul has filed a lawsuit seeking a court order forcing Prehn to step down from the board, but a Dane County judge rejected it, citing the Supreme Court precedent.
Dozens of people appointed to lower-level boards, committees and commissions were also on Tuesday’s register. Two of the most prominent positions vying for the votes include Wisconsin Ethics Commission administrator Daniel Carlton and Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority executive director Joaquin Altoro.
Associated Press writer Scott Bauer contributed to this report.
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