Robin Vos, Tyler August, Jim Steineke
Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, center (R-Rochester) addresses the media along with Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) and Speaker Pro Tempore Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva) after protesters took down two statues June 23, 2020 on the grounds of the Capitol Square. (Photo © Andy Manis)

Republicans blocked Pride Month, Motherhood Month, and Gun Violence Survivor Day resolutions because an Asian American lawmaker spoke out against racism, Democrats say.

In a rare peek behind the legislative curtain, Wisconsin Democrats exposed how Assembly Republican leadership has been ignoring Democratic resolutions as retaliation for caucus members speaking out against racism. 

In the typical procedure for scheduling a resolution, which is usually in recognition of a special event or individual, the authors submit the resolution to the majority leader. The Assembly majority leader is Rep. Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna). 

In a press release from Minority Leader Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh), Democrats said that several resolutions they have put forward—such as recognizing Pride Month, Wisconsin Motherhood Month, and Gun Violence Survivor Day—were not scheduled. Instead, the authors received the same message from Steineke’s office: “Acknowledging receipt of your scheduling request. Please see the attached and consult with your leadership team with any questions you might have.”

Attached was a statement from Rep. Francesca Hong (D-Madison) after a resolution recognizing Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Month, where Hong celebrated the passage of the resolution, but recognized that her Black colleagues were denied a vote on the resolution to mark Black History Month, which Republican leadership has denied the Black caucus for years.

RELATED: Once Again, Wisconsin Republicans Refuse to Recognize Black History Month. They Honored Rush Limbaugh Instead.

“Today, as an original author of this resolution and as the first APIDA legislator in Wisconsin history, I am also weighed down by the sadness of this moment,” Hong wrote. “I acknowledge that my joy will never be complete if my Black colleagues and Black Wisconsinites continue to see the resolution honoring Black History Month denied on the basis of hatred and racism.”

But the GOP’s bullying of Hong started before the resolution passed. In a Twitter thread by Nada Elmikashfi, Hong’s chief of staff, Elmikashfi said that Hong had originally written the APIDA resolution but chose to remove herself from it because Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) “refused to put it on the calendar [because] their leadership didn’t like her tweets about racism.”

“She gave the bill that she wrote with her heart, her identity, to white Republican colleagues so it would have a chance of being passed,” Elmikashfi said. “She chose the community over herself, as a leader should every time. But the dehumanisation of that process…I can’t capture it in words.”

Elmikashfi said Steineke refused to schedule other caucus members’ resolutions as an effort to turn the caucus against Hong. And while Elmikashfi said she is “angry beyond words,” she stated she was grateful that Democrats decided to call out the behavior and stand behind Hong. 

“These emails underscore the fact that Assembly Republicans have no qualms about shutting down uncomfortable conversations and see no problem with trying to scapegoat a member of color,” wrote Democratic Caucus Chair Mark Spreitzer. “It is outrageous, but not surprising, that Assembly Republicans doubled down on racism by following it up with homophobia and transphobia when they refused to schedule the LGBTQ Pride resolution. But they are mistaken if they think these actions do anything except emphasize the insidiousness of racism in Wisconsin and strengthen Assembly Democrats’ resolve to tackle it head on.” 

However, that support does not diminish the toxic work environment Hong and Elmikashfi have faced at the Statehouse.

“[Women of color] who dare to speak up against power are retraumatized over and over in ways no human should experience, of which this resolution bullshit is just the latest example,” Elmikashfi wrote. “Working for the 76th [Assembly District] is the honor of my life, but the Capitol is the most toxic place I’ve encountered. These past six months have been a first hand view of a [woman of color] being target practice for a white supremacist system over and over again.”

In their statement, Democrats pointed out that Steineke is co-chair of the Speaker’s Racial Disparities Task Force, which he called a “political loser” in a private email that UpNorthNews released.

“In short, while co-chairing a task force whose stated goal is to reduce racial disparities on a bipartisan basis, Rep. Steineke has been coordinating the efforts of Republican leadership behind the scenes to silence and retaliate against members that speak out against racism,” the statement read. 

UpNorthNews reached out to Steineke’s office for comment but did not receive an immediate response.