Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said lawmakers will “correct” the law on special elections in response to a judge’s ruling that went against Republicans.
Dane County Circuit Judge Josann Reynolds last week ruled that Republican Gov. Scott Walker must call special elections in the 42nd Assembly District and the 1st Senate District. They were formerly held by Rep. Keith Ripp and Sen. Frank Lasee before the Republicans took jobs in the Walker administration.
Walker had declined to call elections for the seats, which have been vacant since Dec. 29, saying the Legislature’s business for the year was wrapped up and he wanted to save money.
But the National Redistricting Foundation, a group affiliated with former Democratic U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, sued Walker, saying people who live in those districts were being denied representation.
In response to Thursday’s ruling, Vos and Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald announced an extraordinary session. In a joint statement, they said the ruling would lead to “voter confusion and electoral chaos.”
“I think Gov. Walker was right to say that the elections should be held in November,” Vos said on “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com.
Vos said lawmakers erred at the time they changed the law on elections to move the primary from September to August.
“We just made a mistake and didn’t move the date for the special election to be triggered. So that’s all we’re really going to look to do,” he said.
Gousha asked Vos about charges from Democrats that Republicans are afraid to hold elections for the seats after a Republican lost a special election in January for the 10th Senate District.
Vos said he is not afraid Republicans will lose the seats.
“The fact that we’re going to have this chaos adds nothing to the debate, other than giving Democrats the ability to try to scream some kind of foul,” he said.
Vos also said he stood by his comments that Reynolds,appointed by Walker in 2014, was an “activist judge” who politicized her ruling.
“Liberal activists are the only ones who are elected in Dane County, it seems,” Vos said.
“We believe in separation of powers. She has the right to make that decision. The Legislature now has the right to come and correct it,” Vos said.
Vos also said he thinks there is still hope for the Assembly’s bill to tighten background checks on some purchases of long guns.
The Assembly passed it on March 22, but Fitzgerald said the bill was not going anywhere in the Senate.
“We’ve got two weeks until we come back. So I’m hoping that the public talks to the Senate, and encourages them to take this bill up,” Vos said.
Also on the program U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Town of Vermont, discussed his meeting Friday with some survivors of the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting, which left 17 people dead.
“When you go to school, you’re expected at the end of the day to go back home, and they’re telling very real, personal stories of what happened in Parkland. And it’s extremely powerful,” he said.
Pocan also said that for the first time, he thinks he is seeing “real momentum” on the issue of guns, mass shootings and school safety.
“Because the very authentic voices of these high school students, I think, is strong enough to match up to the power that the NRA has. And they are exposing the NRA for what they are, about gun sales, plain and simple,” Pocan said.
Gousha also asked Pocan if he was concerned that President Trump might try to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is looking into Russian meddling in the election, and possible ties to the Trump campaign.
Pocan said Trump has tried to derail Mueller’s investigation. He also said he’s “extremely disappointed” in House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for not standing up to Trump.
“We’re a separate co-equal branch of government, and if they can’t stand up to the president on something like this, they consider themselves to be junior White House staffers rather than the head of legislative bodies, then it’s not providing a check and the balance in the system that we really need,” Pocan said.
In another segment, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Capitol reporter Jason Stein discussed his reports on how Russian Twitter trolls used police shootings in Milwaukee and Madison to sow racial hatred and division.
Stein said the Sherman Park unrest in August 2016, which occurred after a black Milwaukee police officer fatally shot a black man, was an example.
“Within hours, you had Russian trolls promoting inaccurate and divisive information about what was happening in Milwaukee, and getting some pick up for it. They got more than 5,000 retweets, which is obviously not an easy thing to do,” he said.
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