A bipartisan group of political figures appealed to Gov. Scott Walker to avoid staining his legacy and behaving like a sore loser by signing legislation that would weaken the powers of the Democrat who defeated him.
Rather than notching another partisan victory in his final weeks in office, they said, Walker should think bigger. Think of your recently deceased father, they pleaded. Think of former President George H.W. Bush. Think of Christ.
“You can have a long, successful career ahead,” longtime Republican and major GOP donor Sheldon Lubar wrote to Walker in a deeply personal email. “Don’t stain it by this personal, poor-loser action. Ask yourself, ‘What would my father say? what would the greatest man who ever lived, Jesus Christ, say?’”
Walker, never one to shy away from a fight, gave no signs Thursday of tipping his hand. A spokesman said only that he was reviewing the bills. He has been generally supportive of the measures in the past without promising to sign or veto them.
The choice is whether to satisfy fellow Republicans, who passed the bills over objections from Democrats, or strike them down to let his successor, Tony Evers, take office under the same rules in place when Walker was in charge.
“It just gets back to what does he want to be remembered for,” said Democratic state Sen. Jon Erpenbach. “It’s time to set aside your political beliefs and do what’s best for your state.”
Another Democrat, state Sen. Tim Carpenter, asked Walker to consider the letter Bush left for his Democratic successor, Bill Clinton, wishing him well.
“Governor Walker, PLEASE do the right thing and leave Governor-elect Evers your best wishes for him, his family and the state of Wisconsin,” Carpenter said in a statement. “Governor Walker, what do you want your legacy to be?”
Charlie Sykes, a former conservative talk radio host in Milwaukee, made a similar appeal mentioning Bush, who died last week.
“Look at the way George H.W. Bush is being remembered and the way that he handled his transition after his very, very bitter defeat by Bill Clinton, the grace by which he handed over power,” Sykes told MSNBC. “I do think Gov. Walker needs to reflect on the kind of legacy he’s going to leave.”
Evers said he planned to make a personal request to Walker for a veto. If that failed, Evers said, he would consider legal action.
Lubar, who first shared his email with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, urged Walker to consider his future.
At 51, Walker is leaving office at a young age. Although he hasn’t said what he plans to do next, he might want to stay active in Wisconsin politics, perhaps to run for the U.S. Senate in 2022.
It’s not clear how his political prospects would be affected by signing the legislation. Walker won three elections pursuing a strongly conservative agenda, and he nearly won re-election last month despite heavy Democratic turnout.
Lubar said he voted for Walker in the past but cast his ballot for Evers in November because he feared Walker had put his political ambitions ahead of what’s best for the state. There is still time for Walker to end on a high note, Lubar wrote.
“I ask you not to destroy your reputation,” Lubar wrote Tuesday.
Walker has six days after the bills are delivered to him to either sign them into law, allow them to become law without his signature or veto them. He might also be able to line-item veto portions of them, depending on how they are drafted and whether they spend money.
The GOP power grab in Wisconsin comes as Michigan Republicans vote on taking action before a Democratic governor takes over in that state. North Carolina lawmakers took similar steps two years ago.
It was Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, not Walker, who was the driving force behind the bills. Drafting notes show they originated with Vos’ office. Vos first hinted at the need to take action just hours after Walker conceded defeat.
Vos and Walker have clashed in the past, and with Walker’s pending departure, the speaker is trying to position himself as the state’s most powerful Republican. A Walker veto would remind Vos that, at least until Jan. 7, Walker is still in charge.
The measures make it more difficult for Evers to undo the legacy of Walker and Republicans, who have had full control of Wisconsin’s government for eight years. That includes protecting a work requirement for some people receiving state health care and blocking Evers from withdrawing Wisconsin from a multistate lawsuit seeking repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
The bills could also make it harder for Evers to renegotiate a $3 billion subsidy for a Foxconn Technology Group manufacturing facility, a deal spearheaded by Walker.
The governor’s long history of clashing with Democrats doesn’t give his opponents much hope he will change course and issue substantial vetoes.
Walker’s decision “will be driven not by what is best for the office or the state but what is best for him,” said Mike Browne, deputy director of the liberal group One Wisconsin Now.
State Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, joined the chorus of those asking Walker to take a different approach as he prepares to leave office Jan 7.
“Wisdom is knowing the right path to take. Integrity is taking it,” Miller said in the Democrats’ weekly radio address. “Scott Walker would be wise not to sign these bills. I’m not holding my breath.”
The confession of a Mississippi carnival worker accused in a brutal sexual assault in Elkhorn should not be thrown out, a Walworth County judge ruled Thursday.
Judge Phillip Koss ruled against a motion filed on behalf of Terrence D. LeFlore, 24. The motion accused Elkhorn Police Detective Thomas Bushey of using illegitimate “coercive tactics” during a third interrogation shortly after a corrections officer woke LeFlore.
Mackenzie Renner, LeFlore’s lawyer, had requested the court throw out the statements made by her client in his third interview in nine hours because of how Bushey handled the interrogation. Koss eventually ruled the interrogation was fair.
“I don’t think the detective did anything wrong,” Koss said Thursday.
District Attorney Zeke Wiedenfeld earlier charged LeFlore with attempted first-degree intentional homicide using a dangerous weapon, two counts of first-degree sexual assault, armed robbery, aggravated battery, first-degree reckless injury and obstructing an officer.
LeFlore has pleaded not guilty to all charges. He was employed by North American Midway Entertainment, a company that supplied entertainment at the Walworth County Fair.
Elkhorn police Aug. 28 responded to the area of the Subway restaurant on South Lincoln Street where a 21-year-old woman was found partially clothed and unconscious in her car. Authorities said she was “badly injured,” and hospital staff later said her brain was swelling and her skull was severely fractured, according to the criminal complaint.
Renner on Nov. 20 filed a motion to suppress her client’s confession. In her motion, she said Bushey woke her client in the Walworth County Jail at 1:20 a.m. after the two had spoken twice between 5 and 7 p.m. Sept. 3 at the Elkhorn Police Department.
Renner in the motion says LeFlore’s “sole concern was release from custody.” He was away from friends or family.
Bushey interviewed LeFlore, who was still wrapped in a blanket, in a room Bushey estimated to be 5 by 8 feet in size. According to a transcript, Bushey repeatedly asked LeFlore why he picked the woman, why he sexually assaulted her and if he meant to kill her.
Renner said Bushey used the Reid technique, which she said could result in false confessions. Bushey opened with a monologue showing certainty of guilt, cut LeFlore off and offered some explanations for the behavior that were “less morally reprehensible,” she argued.
In the 20-minute interrogation, Bushey spoke 2,308 words, while LeFlore spoke 703, according to Renner’s motion.
“Now I’m going to says (sic) something to you before you say anything,” Bushey said, according to a transcript in Renner’s motion. “I know you lied ought (sic) to me and I know you assaulted this girl. I know that.
“I have to go to the DA which I told you earlier and tell him whether or not you’ve been honest with me or not, and that might help you with some consideration,” Bushey continued. “Maybe you can do some apologizing. I’m not telling you what to say, but I’m telling you we have all the proof we need right now and I don’t want you to keep lying to me about it.”
During the third interrogation, LeFlore said he had just wanted money, that he “only hit her one time, and she just fell.” He denied raping the woman, but said he removed her clothes to make it appear somebody had raped her.
Renner said just because LeFlore wasn’t hit doesn’t mean he wasn’t coerced. The third interrogation, Renner said, “violated due process.”
Bushey testified in court Thursday, the day before he is set to retire from his 40-year career.
Among the evidence Elkhorn police obtained from LeFlore’s possession was a shirt from the woman’s car, and authorities found internet searches on his phone for “fingerprints and blood” and “how can you tell if someone raped someone else,” according to the complaint.
Wiedenfeld argued the information Bushey put before LeFlore was factual. The detective never hit LeFlore or threatened him, the district attorney said.
Koss agreed with Wiedenfeld’s reasoning. Although LeFlore could have been a little tired, he was not kept awake for hours without food and water, the judge said.
LeFlore is next due in court at 1:15 p.m. Jan. 8.
Shirley M. Blaser
The lame-duck legislation limiting early voting in Wisconsin could mean longer lines for early voters if it becomes law, local clerks say.
The proposal to limit in-person absentee voting likely will be challenged in court, as was a similar proposal in 2016, when a court injunction kept it from taking effect, said Rock County Clerk Lisa Tollefson.
A federal judge later ruled the law unconstitutional.
However, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has said he believes courts will approve the new measure because unlike the 2016 bill, it allows early voting at night and on weekends.
If Gov. Scott Walker signs the bill, and if courts don’t block it, then it likely will mean longer lines for early voters, said Janesville Clerk-Treasurer Dave Godek.
Critics—mostly Democrats—see the measure as another attempt to limit voting, which tends to favor Republican candidates.
Would longer lines discourage voting?
“I’m not sure that it would. They may end up coming another day or coming to the polls on Election Day,” Tollefson said. “It’s hard to say how people are going to be affected by those lines. There’s so many situations for why they would be early voting.”
It’s hard to tell how most people would react in that situation, Godek said.
Clerks in each municipality now set their own early-voting hours. The only restriction is that early voting is not allowed the Monday before Election Day.
Tollefson said Beloit and Janesville allowed four weeks in the Nov. 6 elections, while some towns have two- or three-week windows.
All the clerks in Rock County set the early-voting window at six weeks before the 2016 presidential election, Godek said. It was an effort to provide standardization, but some clerks found they didn’t need that much time.
“Municipal clerks really do know their areas and what’s needed,” Tollefson said.
For example, schools’ spring breaks sometimes fall on spring Election Day, and sometimes they don’t, Tollefson said. So clerks would know if there’s a greater need in a particular year for more absentee voting, a nuance the Legislature isn’t going to see, she said.
Tollefson noted that early voting can’t begin until ballots are printed, and laws require they be printed by 21 days before nonfederal elections and 47 days before a federal election.
Godek said most early voting takes place in the last two weeks. In Janesville for the last election, 3,429 of the 4,259 early votes were cast in the last two weeks, and there were lines.
Pushing all those votes into two weeks would add about 80 people per day and make those lines longer, Godek said.
Another possible outcome of changing the law could be more people requesting absentee ballots by mail. The bill awaiting the governor’s signature doesn’t affect the time allowed for mail-in ballots.
Godek said 2,174 Janesville voters mailed their absentee ballots in the last election.
The municipality must mail those ballots to the voters and provide postage-paid envelopes for voters to mail them back, which costs about $1 per voter, Godek said. So that’s an additional $4,000 if 4,000 early in-person voters switch to the mail.
That’s not a significant cost for the city budget, but it is significant for the elections budget, Godek said.
In addition to postage, the municipality must pay for the specially printed envelopes and for workers’ time to stick stamps on each envelope, which is required, Godek said.
Tollefson said clerks saw “a huge increase” in mail-in absentee voting in the last election. It takes just one click on the state’s “My Vote” website to have an absentee ballot sent to the voter.
Town clerks have noted an increase in requests through the website, she said.
Godek said it’s hard to tell why the Legislature wanted the change, other than to read public statements in which backers said they wanted to give equal voting opportunity to all voters.
But the bill doesn’t take into account the differing needs of a city such as Janesville, with about 44,000 eligible voters, versus much smaller numbers in a town, Godek said.
Walworth County Clerk Kim Bushey could not be reached for comment Thursday.