Wisconsin Democratic Secretary of State La Follette resigns

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MADISON, Wisconsin — Wisconsin’s veteran Democratic Secretary of State Doug La Follette resigned Friday, saying he was leaving with a “heavy heart” three months into his 11th consecutive term in office after seeing the office stripped of its power. in the last 50 years.

Governor Tony Evers appointed former treasurer Sarah Godlewski, who ran for the US Senate last year but lost in the primary, to complete the four-year term. Wisconsin’s secretary of state has not been in charge of elections since 1974 and has almost no official duties.

“It is with a heavy heart that I tender my resignation,” La Follette, 82, said in his resignation letter. “After many years of frustration, I have decided that I don’t want to spend the next three and a half years trying to run an office without adequate resources and staffing levels.”

He did not immediately return a phone message left seeking comment. In his resignation letter, La Follette said: “Now I must concentrate on my personal needs.”

La Follette won re-election in November over a Republican who wanted to move electoral duties to the office.

Evers, also a Democrat, thanked La Follette for his decades of service and named Godlewski to replace him.

“In a critical position that has not seen rotation in decades, maintaining continuity with a leader who is prepared and committed to meeting the constitutional obligations of this office could not be more important, and there is no one better qualified or better prepared to do so. the job that Sarah,” Evers said in a statement.

Godlewski, 41, was 1 when La Follette began his current consecutive career as secretary of state.

Godlewski said she was honored by the appointment. She becomes the third woman to hold the position in state history. She served as Treasurer for one term, from 2018 to 2022. She lost the Senate primary to Mandela Barnes, who then lost to Republican US Senator Ron Johnson.

“Becoming the third woman in our state’s history to hold this position is the honor of a lifetime,” Godlewski said. “I know how important this role and my responsibilities are, and I am really looking forward to getting to work. ”

A distant relative of “Fighting” Bob La Follette, a progressive governor and 1924 presidential candidate, La Follette was first elected secretary of state in 1974. After an unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor in 1978, he won the job in 1982 and he has won re-election 10 times.

Republicans have gradually stripped the office of nearly all its duties and staff and relegated La Follette to a cramped office in the basement of the Capitol. However, since the 2020 presidential election, Republicans have been considering shifting election oversight to the secretary of state.


This story corrects the number of times La Follette has been re-elected from nine to 10. It also clarifies that La Follette was in his 11th consecutive term when he resigned.

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