Assembly majority leader Bill Kramer loses post over abuse allegations
MADISON—Republicans who control the Wisconsin state Assembly unanimously voted to remove the majority leader from his post Tuesday amid allegations that he groped one woman and verbally abused another during a trip to Washington last week.
State Rep. Bill Kramer, who had held the Assembly's second-most powerful position since September, wasn't at the meeting. He checked himself into a treatment facility Saturday for an unspecified reason and hasn't commented publicly about the allegations.
Kramer's chief of staff, Cameron Sholty, didn't immediately respond to email or phone messages seeking comment about the vote.
Republicans, who hold a 60-39 majority in the Assembly, met behind closed doors for about 90 minutes before opening the meeting to take the vote. Only the two lawmakers who made the motion to remove Kramer and who seconded it spoke.
“We just cannot condone that kind of activity,” said state Rep. Don LeMahieu, R-Cascade.
The ballot was secret, but it was announced that the vote to remove him was unanimous. Kramer became majority leader in September and was first elected to the Assembly in 2006.
Republicans returned about an hour later to elect state Rep. Pat Strachota to replace Kramer as majority leader for the remainder of the year. Strachota defeated Rep. Mary Williams in the secret vote. Both of them are retiring at the end of the year and a new leader will be elected in January.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker on Monday endorsed the move to remove Kramer, saying “I don't think there's any place for someone in a position of public trust to be in office if they've done those things.” Walker, a potential 2016 presidential hopeful, is not seen as closely allied with Kramer and didn't publicly back his elevation to majority leader.
The majority leader is in charge of setting the agenda for the Assembly and working with lawmakers on the process of getting their bills through the process. In election years, like this one, the majority leader is also expected to help with fundraising and other campaign duties. All 99 Assembly seats are up for election in November.
Kramer is known for his sometimes flamboyant and confrontational style. He has admitted to carrying a concealed handgun on the floor of the Assembly to protect himself and in his previous position presiding over the Assembly, he was a stickler for the rules, especially those covering spectators in the galleries.
The sexual harassment allegations that led to Kramer's ouster first came to light on Friday. Republican leaders agreed that night to seek his resignation as majority leader, but Kramer checked into an unspecified treatment facility on Saturday. That led to the vote Tuesday.
LeMahieu said he believes the allegations are credible and that they forced him and his fellow Republicans to act.
“I think this sends a message,” he said.
Republicans with direct knowledge of the current situation said one of the women involved was a lobbyist and the other was a legislative staff member. The Republicans spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized by their attorneys to comment publicly about the alleged victims.
Neither the lobbyist nor the staffer in question responded to requests for comment left Monday by The Associated Press. The requests were left in-person at the office of the staffer and on the voicemail and home answering machine of the lobbyist.