Evers
Gov. Tony Evers delivers the 2022 State of the State address. (Photo by Jonathon Sadowski)

Governor tells UpNorthNews how the national GOP is only catching up to dangerous precedents set by Wisconsin Republicans.

“Just think about this: I can’t even get my appointees to boards approved. My appointees to boards,” said a frustrated Gov. Tony Evers, calling it a new, unprecedented level of obstruction.

In an interview with UpNorthNews, Evers said the actions of legislative Republicans since his 2018 election threaten a concept at the heart of American democracy: the peaceful transfer of power after voters have made their decision.

Asked about his campaign plans while seeking a second term, the governor was asked what he would say to voters fed up with the current state of politics—and he quickly set aside any notion that a voter should blame both Democrats and Republicans.

“There hasn’t been a peaceful transition of power in that world,” he said of the division within the Capitol since unseating Republican Gov. Scott Walker. 

GOP lawmakers called a lame duck special session between the 2018 election and Evers’ inauguration to strip the governor of many powers—actions later upheld by the right-wing majority of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Along with removing some of the governor’s powers, Republicans took to a new level their own power to advise and consent in a governor’s nominations—something traditionally done as a courtesy so that a rightfully elected chief executive can name the members of their team. 

Instead, Republicans have turned the courtesy into a cudgel, enabling the Legislature to essentially fire an executive branch official, even a cabinet officer, on a whim by holding up their confirmation vote for months or years into the governor’s term and finally rejecting the appointment. 

“I lost a Secretary of Agriculture for no apparent reason,” he said, referencing Brad Pfaff whose confirmation vote to run the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection had been among those delayed for the first 10 months of Evers’ term. After Pfaff criticized GOP lawmakers for not providing enough money to help farmers with mental health issues, the Republican-controlled Senate scheduled the vote and the secretary-designate lost his job. (Pfaff later won election to the Senate, where he now serves and is currently running in the Democratic primary to represent Congress in the state’s 3rd District.)

The unprecedented Republican obstruction also includes the governing body of the University of Wisconsin System.

“We have nine Board of Regents members that have not been approved. Nine,” Evers said. 

Most recently, the state Supreme Court’s conservative justices allowed a Republican-appointed member of the state Natural Resources Board—which oversees the Department of Natural Resources—to continue serving even though his term expired more than a year ago.

“It has nothing to do with my appointees. It has all to do with Republicans not wanting to participate in democracy.”

Such charges are echoed in Washington, DC, where the special congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol is outlining the ways in which former President Donald Trump’s Republican allies violently tried to obstruct the peaceful transfer of power after voters elected President Joe Biden.

Exactly four months from the 2022 general election, Evers said he is fed up with Republican obstruction on his appointments, inaction caused by lengthy legislative recesses, and unwillingness to work with him on serious issues.

“Whether it’s been on schools, gun safety, marijuana legalization, you name it. Obviously every time we’ve attempted to have a special session, they don’t show up,” Evers said.

So the original question about frustrated voters is answered forcefully by a governor who’s also fed up.

“I’m frustrated too. I’m frustrated with them. And I know there are Republicans that are frustrated also.”