State News

Walker will name agriculture secretary, leaving open seat in state Senate

Gov. Scott Walker is expected to name state Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, as agriculture secretary.

Image By: Kaitlyn Veto

Gov. Scott Walker plans to name state Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, as his agriculture secretary sometime this week, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Harsdorf will replace Ben Brancel, who stepped down in August. The appointment would leave her senate seat open, requiring a special election. It is uncertain when in 2018 the special election would take place — it could be as soon as January or as late as November.

While Republicans control the Senate 20-13, this open seat, which covers parts of Burnett, Polk, St. Croix and Pierce counties, is considered a swing district by Democrats.

"While we have heard the Harsdorf rumors for months now, we are honestly surprised Republicans would choose to voluntarily put a swing district in play given the national environment favoring Democrats,” said Jenni Dye, director of the State Senate Democratic Committee, in a text message to a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reporter.

Harsdorf also gives up her spot as the chair of the Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges. State Sen. Stephen Nass, R-Whitewater, is the vice chair of the committee, leading some to believe he could take the spot.

Nass has come under fire from students for favoring punishing protesters at UW-Madison and other system schools, as well as for calling on UW-Madison to punish a student over a controversial video that alluded to killing police.

When reached by the Daily Cardinal, an official in the office of Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said a decision on who will chair the committee has not yet been made. 

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