MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Republican U.S. Senate candidate Leah Vukmir wrote a letter supporting a fellow GOP legislator after he had been convicted of sexual assault three years ago, a newspaper reported Friday.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Vukmir, a state senator, sent a character reference letter for Bill Kramer to a Waukesha County judge a month after the former state representative was convicted of two counts of fourth-degree sexual assault in 2014. The letter focused on Kramer’s decision to quit drinking that year but made no mention of the sexual assault.
“Being sober has had a profound impact on Bill for the better,” Vukmir wrote. “I also think it is important to recognize that Bill became sober under his own volition. Bill became sober to improve his life, not because he was sent to a court mandated program. I believe this change has improved Bill’s life considerably.”
Vukmir is running in a GOP primary against the Delafield businessman Kevin Nicholson for the right to face the incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin. The race is ramping up as a national debate over sexual harassment and sexual assault intensifies after women have accused various men in politics, entertainment and the media of inappropriate behavior.
Vukmir’s campaign manager, Jess Ward, told the Journal Sentinel that letters like Vukmir’s help judges better understand defendants’ character and that her letter doesn’t diminish or excuse Kramer’s criminal behavior.
Kramer was charged in March 2014 with groping a woman’s breasts in a Muskego parking lot after a Republican event in 2011. He was convicted of the two sexual assault charges in October 2014 and sentenced to five months in jail the following month.
Republicans stripped him of his leadership position in the Assembly shortly before he was arrested after reports surfaced that he had sexually harassed a lobbyist and groped a legislative aide while in Washington, D.C., for a fundraiser.