By Michael Leischner, WSAU
MADISON, WI (WSAU) -- Lawmakers in Madison have voted out Governor Tony Evers' choice to lead the state Department of Ag, Trade, and Consumer Protection.
Tuesday afternoon Brad Pfaff was voted out of his post by the Senate on a 19-14 party-line vote, after the Senate Ag Committee gave unanimous support to his appointment earlier this year..
Legislative records going back to 1987 show this is the first time that the Senate has ousted a Gubernatorial appointee, and those in Madison say there's no oral record of it happening before then. Evers cannot re-appoint Pfaff, a law that was put in place as part of the lame-duck laws passed just before the end of Scott Walker's eight-year run as Governor.
Evers watched the debate and vote from the Senate floor, which many considered to be a rare move for a sitting Governor. He released the following statement after the vote:
“Brad Pfaff is an extraordinary person and public servant who has dedicated his life to serving and advocating for our farmers, their families, and our rural communities. Brad once even went as far as to say that being the secretary of DATCP was his dream job, and by golly, it showed. He brought relentless passion and joy to this work, and it was contagious to our cabinet and the people he fought each day to help. Brad has had and will continue to have my full support.
I was honored to be able to appoint Brad, and it has been my honor to have the opportunity to serve alongside him these past eleven months.And that’s why Republicans’ actions today were nothing short of callous and cruel—Republicans voted to reject a good man who has a good heart and who wakes up every day ready to serve. It was apparently more important for Republicans to serve up political retribution because Brad had the courage and the audacity to scold them for playing politics with farmers' mental health during this dairy crisis. Frankly, it would have been a disservice to this state if I’d appointed a secretary who didn’t fight like hell for our farmers, regardless of the consequences.
This is the same political B.S. people are sick and tired of, and to say it’s a dark day for Wisconsin is simply an understatement.”
The Associated Press reports Evers told reporters he was "P.O.'d" after the vote.
Senator Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) added “Brad Pfaff has the knowledge, experience, and passion for the job of Secretary of DATCP, as well as the support of farmers and agriculture stakeholders from communities across our state. I’m grateful that he came to my district to learn more about our producer-led watershed groups and hear from farmers about nutrient management and reducing nitrate pollution. He has shown outstanding dedication to improving the lives and livelihoods of Wisconsin farmers, and is a phenomenal public servant and advocate. I am profoundly disappointed that every Republican senator chose to reject the appointment of such a strong and qualified nominee at a time when our rural communities need steady leadership, not petulant and partisan game-playing.”
Republicans had expressed concerns after Pfaff criticized them for not immediately releasing funds for mental health and suicide prevention services for ag producers.
Shortly after the vote, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald hinted that other Evers appointees that have yet to be confirmed may face similar uncertainty.
It's the latest standoff between Evers and the Republican-controlled Senate and Assembly. Recently, Republicans have promised to gavel in and out of a special session on November 7th relating to two proposed gun-control bills. One that would require a universal background check on all purchases, including those made at gun shows. The other would put the so-called "red flag" laws in place that would allow a judge to temporarily take an individual's guns away if they are deemed a threat to themselves or the public.
The two sides also quarreled over details of the state budget which was signed into law this summer with dozens of line-item vetoes.