By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker’s appointee to the board that oversees elections in Wisconsin told members of the state Senate Elections committee on Tuesday that impartiality on the panel is an “absolute necessity.”
Walker selected former judge and Republican congressman Howard Froehlich to replace David Deininger on the Government Accountability Board, even though Deininger’s term isn’t up until May 2016. Walker withdrew Deininger’s appointment to the board on Oct. 24, saying on Monday that Deininger didn’t have enough support to be confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate.
Deininger is a former Republican state representative who is an original member of the GAB, first appointed in 2008 by Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle.
Deininger was chairman of the nonpartisan board, comprised of six former judges, in 2012 as it reviewed petitions to recall Walker from office. In 2011 and 2012, the board ordered recall elections for Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and 13 state senators, after confirming enough signatures were gathered on petitions.
Deininger said Monday he had no idea why Walker was removing him from the board, other than it was part of a deal to ensure confirmation for other appointees in the Senate.
Froehlich, along with three other appointees to the board, appeared before the Senate Elections Committee for a confirmation hearing on Tuesday. Two others, Gerald Nichol and Timothy Vocke, are current board members who Walker is recommending continue to serve. A fourth appointee, Elsa Lamelas, would fill a vacancy on the board.
Walker selected Froehlich and Lamelas from a list of finalists submitted by a committee of current appellate court judges for the board vacancy.
All four were asked by senators on the Senate’s Elections Committee about whether they could put aside party politics while serving on the board. The withdrawal of Deininger’s appointment by Walker was not raised.
Froehlich, 81, served as Outagamie County circuit judge for 30 years after his two years in Congress and 10 years in the state Assembly, including four years as speaker. He said election law needs to be delivered fairly, and that’s a challenge for the board.
Froehlich, under questioning from Democratic Sen. Mark Miller, assured the committee he had not been active in Republican politics for at least a year.
Froehlich donated $200 to Walker in 2011, according to an online database of campaign contributions maintained by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. Froehlich also gave $200 to the campaign of Pat Roggensack in February as she ran for re-election to the state Supreme Court. That election was nonpartisan, although conservatives generally lined up behind Roggensack.
Froehlich, during his one term in Congress, was one of six out of 17 Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee to vote in favor of impeaching fellow Republican President Richard Nixon.
Froehlich said that vote shows he meets the standard of impartiality needed to serve on the elections board.
“You bring a lot to the table,” said committee chairwoman Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin. “I’m very pleased that you’re able to serve.”
Lazich said she anticipated unanimous support for all four nominees and planned to hold a committee vote Wednesday. The full Senate could take it up next week.