MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin’s longtime Democratic Secretary of State Doug La Follette abruptly resigned on Friday, saying he was leaving three months into his 11th consecutive term “to focus on my personal needs” after watching the office be stripped of its power over the past 50 years.
Gov. Tony Evers appointed former Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate last year, to fill out the four-year term. Wisconsin‘s secretary of state has not been in charge of elections since 1974 and has almost no official duties.
“After many years of frustration, I’ve 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,” the 82-year-old La Follette said in his resignation letter.
He did not immediately return a telephone message left seeking comment.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu called on Evers to hold a special election, saying the appointment of Godlewski was “an insult to voters of Wisconsin and our democratic process.”
Evers, also a Democrat, defended the appointment.
“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—and there’s no one more uniquely qualified or better suited for the job than Sarah,” Evers said in a statement.
Godlewski, 41, was 1-year-old when La Follette began his current consecutive run as secretary of state.
Godlewski said she was humbled by the appointment. She becomes the third woman to hold the position in state history. She served one term as treasurer, from 2018 to 2022.
“I know how important this role is and my responsibilities are, and I’m looking forward to getting to work,” she said in a statement.
Godlewski ran for U.S. Senate last year on an abortion rights platform but dropped out of the race ahead of the August primary after falling behind Democratic front-runner Mandela Barnes by double digits in public polling. Her name remained on the primary ballot but Barnes won the nomination. He went on to lose to Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson.
Godlewski, a native of Eau Claire, formerly worked on Hillary Clinton’s campaigns for president in both 2008 and 2016.
Before running for treasurer in 2018, Godlewski led a bipartisan coalition that worked against a measure on the ballot that spring that would have eliminated the treasurer’s…
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