Doug La Follette, Wisconsin’s longest serving Secretary of State, resigned Friday after winning 11 consecutive terms in the position.
Gov. Tony Evers appointed former Wisconsin Treasurer and unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate Sarah Godlewski to the position upon La Follette’s resignation. She will serve nearly a full term as secretary, as La Follette had just begun his 12th term after fending off a Republican challenger last November.
In his resignation letter, La Follette noted that part of the reasoning for his sudden departure is his unwillingness to “spend the next three and a half years trying to run an office without adequate resources and staffing levels.”
The Wisconsin Secretary of State’s office has limited official duties in the government, and over the past few years, lawmakers have reduced the office’s staff and capacity. As of 2022, the office had only two full-time staff members and operated out of a basement office in the Capitol.
First elected in 1982, La Follette did not plan to seek another term as Secretary in 2022, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. However, he entered the race after Republican candidates for Secretary and Governor discussed giving the office more power over state elections, including putting an oversight organization inside the office.
La Follette’s challenger in the November 2022 election, Amy Loudenbeck, raised concerns about the political motives behind his resignation, according to the Associated Press.
“This move coming so soon after the election raises questions once again about the tactics used by those in power who will do anything to keep that power,” she said.
Evers thanked La Follette for his tenure as Secretary of State in a statement Thursday.
“Secretary of State La Follette’s retirement after more than 40 years of state service leaves an incredibly important role to fill, and I want to thank him for his years of dedication to the people of Wisconsin throughout his long career,” Evers said.
Evers believed Godlewski — the third woman in Wisconsin history to serve as Secretary of State — would be a great fit for the position.
“In a critical position that has seen no turnover in decades, maintaining continuity with a leader who’s prepared and committed to fulfilling this office’s constitutional obligations could not be more important,” Evers said. “There’s no one more uniquely qualified or better suited for the job than Sarah.”
Godlewski said Friday she was “humbled” by Evers’ appointment. She will assume office Saturday and serve the remainder of La Follette’s term, which ends in January 2027.
Editor's note: This article was updated at 5:20 p.m. on Friday, March 17 to accurately reflect the number of terms La Follette has served.
Gabriella Hartlaub is a staff writer for the Daily Cardinal specializing in state politics and life & style reporting.