MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Republicans moved quickly Monday to change the 2020 presidential primary date at a cost of millions of dollars to benefit a conservative state Supreme Court justice, part of a rare lame-duck session that would also weaken the newly elected Democratic governor and attorney general.
The changes being sought would shift power to the GOP-controlled Legislature and allow outgoing Republican Gov. Scott Walker to make one last major mark on the state’s political landscape after he lost re-election in November.
Angry opponents filled the hallways of the Wisconsin Capitol, and the hearing room, banging on the doors and chanting “Respect our votes!” and “Shame!”
Republicans forged ahead despite threats of lawsuits, claims by Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers and others that they were trying to invalidate results of the November election and howls of protest from hundreds of people who showed up for a public hearing.
The lame-duck maneuvering in Wisconsin is similar to what Republicans did in North Carolina two years ago and is being discussed in Michigan before a Democratic governor takes over there.
The protests, coming at the end of Walker’s eight years in office, were reminiscent of tumult that came shortly after he took office in 2011 and moved to end collective bargaining powers for public sector unions.
In addition to moving the primary date, the proposals would weaken the governor’s ability to put in place rules that enact state laws and shield the state jobs agency from his control.
Other measures would weaken the attorney general’s office by allowing Republican legislative leaders to intervene in cases and hire their own attorneys. A legislative committee, rather than the attorney general, would have to sign off on withdrawing from federal lawsuits. That would stop Evers and incoming Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul from fulfilling their campaign promises to withdraw Wisconsin from a multi-state lawsuit seeking repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald downplayed concerns about what was being considered in the lame-duck session, saying “I don’t think it’s outrageous at all.”