by Matthew Rothschild, Executive Director
March 29, 2018
It’s not often that we’ve had occasion, over the last seven years, to celebrate a victory for democracy here in Wisconsin, but today is one of those rare days.
Today, Gov. Scott Walker followed the law.
Today, Walker called special elections for Assembly Seat 42 and Senate Seat 1, as he should have done months ago.
Today, Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald threw in the towel on his crude bill to change the law on special elections so they wouldn’t have to hold them in these two districts.
Don’t kid yourself: It’s not because, all of a sudden, Walker and Fitzgerald found a conscience and wanted to honor the law and respect our system of checks and balances.
No, it’s the politics of the situation that got to them.
The optics weren’t good, and the timing was terrible. This naked power play was getting embarrassing even for them. Three judges in a matter of days had denounced this tactic in blistering decisions.
“Representative government and the election of our representatives are never ‘unnecessary,’ never a ‘waste of taxpayer resources,’ ” ruled Appellate Judge Paul Reilly in dismissing the threadbare rationales that Walker’s team offered.
The media was all over this story.
And to go to the Wisconsin Supreme Court or to try to ram it through the legislature on the eve of a big election for a seat on that Court was not a prudent course of action, since it would have served only to further motivate the progressive base to turn out.
So Walker and Fitzgerald reluctantly gave in.
Here’s a scoresheet of winners and losers.
Eric Holder and his group, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, for filing the lawsuit.
The citizens of Assembly District 42 and Senate District 1.
Judges Josann Reynolds, Richard Niess, and Paul Reilly.
State Senator Mark Miller, who made a fool of Fitzgerald at the hearing yesterday.
The regular citizens who testified so powerfully against Fitzgerald’s maneuver at the hearing.
The Republican Senators who defied Fitzgerald on this. Their names have not been made public yet, but Fitzgerald didn’t have the votes, which means that at least two Republic Senators had the courage and the dignity to defy their leadership and do the right thing.
The rule of law.
Respect for the judiciary.
Scott Walker, who acted not only in a profoundly undemocratic way but also was more mealy-mouthed than usual.
Scott Fitzgerald, who acted like a goon throughout this affair, and shamelessly conjured up bogus arguments for his crass power play.
Representative Kathy Bernier, who took the stand at the hearing yesterday only to hem and haw and not defend herself well under questioning from Sen. Miller.
And last, but not least, the Walker-Fitzgerald-Vos trademark that raw power is the only thing that matters.