Senate Republicans adopted a joint resolution Wednesday pressuring Gov. Tony Evers to convene a special election to replace Secretary of State Doug La Follette, who resigned last week. State law, however, does not require a new election.
The move comes after the governor appointed Sarah Godlewski, former state treasurer and unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate, to fill the rest of La Follette’s nearly four-year term.
Senate Republicans balked at Evers’ appointment, claiming voters should have the chance to choose their own secretary of state in a special election.
“The legislature is simply calling on the governor to exercise his authority to allow the people of Wisconsin to elect their next secretary of state,” Sen. Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) explained at Wednesday’s floor vote. “The people of Wisconsin did not vote for Sarah Godlewski.”
Democrats defended the appointment, recalling former Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s appointment of Rebecca Bradley and Dan Kelly to the state Supreme Court without ever calling a special election and pointing to Godlewski’s recent history in elected statewide office.
“Gov. Evers did not pick a random person off the street,” said Sen. Kelda Roys (D-Madison). “He picked Sarah Godlewski, a person who was elected in her own right, statewide, served four years as state treasurer, and she won her election overwhelmingly in a Wisconsin landslide by 100,000 votes.”
“She’ll do a great job,” Evers remarked at a press conference Tuesday. “She’s been part of the executive branch of government, and I trust her.”
Republicans have also accused the governor of colluding with La Follette, the popular 82 year old incumbent and fellow Democrat, to resign and give the much younger Godlewski an incumbency advantage in 2026. Evers denies any such involvement.
“I think the last I talked to Doug La Follette, I saw him at the inauguration, and I said ‘Good speech, Doug,’” Evers explained.
Additionally, Evers noted there was no collusion.
“He brought [to] my office a letter saying ‘I’m sick of this stuff.’ He left, I appointed a completely competent person to do the work and that’s the end of that story,” Evers added.
The secretary of state is a largely symbolic position, mainly responsible for safeguarding the state’s official seal.
If a special election is not called, Godlewski’s term will expire in 2027. She will likely face a reelection challenge from Republicans in 2026.