A judge on Tuesday rejected Republican Gov. Scott Walker's attempt to avoid immediately calling special elections for a pair of vacant legislative seats, but the victory for Democrats may be short-lived.
In a series of tweets Thursday, Walker blamed former Attorney General Eric Holder and other Democrats for forcing the issue on the special elections. Walker had tried to delay having to call the elections until after the Legislature could meet next week to change the law.
The announcement came in a filing with the high court by the state Department of Justice, which represents Walker, late Wednesday that the governor would not ask the Supreme Court to overturn the appeals court.
Dane County Circuit Court Judge Richard Niess ruled against Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday.
But after a third ruling, the governor relented, issuing an executive order for the special elections to be held on June 12 to fill the vacancies in the 1st Senate and 42nd Assembly districts, who have been unrepresented since late previous year. But, this week, despite every effort by Scott Walker to avert the expression of the will of the people, democracy prevailed.
Republicans are rushing a bill through the Legislature that would eliminate requirements that the governor promptly call special elections to fill legislative vacancies. Frank Lasee's seats. But a Madison judge last week ordered Walker to schedule the elections by noon on Thursday. Earlier this month, Democrat Conor Lamb captured what been a reliably Republican congressional seat in Pennsylvania.
Walker told an audience at an event Wednesday night hosted by the conservative radio station WTMJ 620 AM that he will call the special elections for June 12.
Dane County Circuit Judge Josann Reynolds, who was appointed by Walker, last week sided with the voters. A group led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sued to force the special elections. The court orders prompted Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald to introduce a bill that would prohibit special elections after the spring election in a regular election year.
Supporters of the change in the law said at the time that it would prevent cronyism by allowing appeals to be heard by judges from appeals courts outside the district where the case was originally heard, who would be more removed from the case. Frank Lasee, of De Pere, and Rep. Keith Ripp, of Lodi. But he had refused to do so, calling the special elections a waste of taxpayer money with the seats coming up for election in the fall.
"This is a real group that could be disenfranchised if this bill doesn't pass", Fitzgerald said. And for a hammer-headed pol like Walker in a hyper-polarized state like Wisconsin, leaving a couple of hundred thousand people without representation for a year was small potatoes compared to the bad possibility of his enemies being emboldened in the run-up to the governor's own reelection bid in November. They included Kathleen Finnerty of Sturgeon Bay - she's chair of the Door County Democratic Party and lives in one of the vacant districts. Democrats have accused Walker of being afraid that the GOP might lose the contests.
The extraordinary session in which this bill is scheduled will begin in the State Senate on April 4 with a public hearing on the measure this Wednesday. Spokesman Reid Magney said the commission stopped tracking costs a year ago after commissioners discontinued the practice because state law doesn't require it to do so. "Walker and legislative Republicans are so desperate to maintain their grip on power that they are changing laws to silence voters".