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Turnover in the Legislature significant, but not unusual
Who needs term limits? With the two-year legislative session coming to a close, and elections looming, a host of familiar names are moving on to retirement, new jobs or bids for higher office.
In the 33-member state Senate, at least five senators who started the 2017-18 session will be gone from the roll call when a new two-year session starts in January.
And in the 99-member state Assembly, the count as of March 20 for state representatives who started the 2017-18 session but won’t be in the chamber come January stood at 11.
This kind of turnover, while significant, doesn’t come close to the numbers that usually occur in years when legislative district boundaries are redrawn.
The reasons are as varied as the individuals.
Some took a job in Gov. Scott Walker’s administration, some are seeking another office and some simply are ready to retire from the legislative grind.
- Those who took a job in the Walker administration: three Republicans, led by former Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, who became state agriculture secretary. Former Sen. Frank Lasee and former Rep. Keith Ripp also left their posts to take administration jobs.
- Those who are retiring included: Republican state Sen. Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls. GOP Reps. Lee Nerison of Westby; Adam Jarchow of Balsam Lake; and Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, plus Democratic Rep. Terese Berceau of Madison.
- Those seeking another office included: state Sens. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, running for the U.S. Senate; and Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, running for governor. Kathy Bernier, R-Lake Hallie, Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, and Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, are leaving to run for the state Senate — in order the seats of Moulton, Lasee and Vukmir. Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire, is running for governor. Dem Rep. Eric Genrich is retiring ahead of a 2019 run for Green Bay mayor. And Rep. Cory Mason resigned in January after winning the Racine mayor’s race and was replaced by fellow Dem Greta Neubauer.
Since 2008, the fewest number of Assembly members to file notices of non-candidacy was nine in 2016. The most was 2012, when 33 filed. But part of that was due to the re-write of legislative boundaries, and 15 of those who did not run for their offices ended up winning newly numbered districts in the Assembly.
Other members of the Assembly on the retirement watch list included: GOP Reps. Ed Brooks, of Reedsburg; and Tom Weatherston, of Caledonia.
Insiders note there’s also often a surprise each session – and some lawmakers who find other – and better paying – gigs to take them away from the Capitol. Some also wonder if the GOP retirement ranks will swell considering the string of wins Dems have racked up in special elections around the country, signs to some of a coming blue wave.
Still, insiders also note that likely means GOP leaders will be putting pressure on members in swing districts to tough it out at least one more term to use the power of incumbency to help hold back any wave that could develop.
The Capitol Report is written by editorial staff at WisPolitics.com, a nonpartisan, Madison-based news service that specializes in coverage of government and politics, and is distributed for publication by members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.
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