Assembly Speaker Robin Vos won a narrow victory over challenger Adam Steen in the Republican primary and deserves a round of applause from those who want to move on from the past presidential race and look to the future.
Vos’ win came despite falling into disfavor with former President Donald Trump when he refused to support efforts to decertify the 2020 election – which Vos, election law experts and the legislature’s own attorneys said was a legal impossibility.
Trump labeled Vos a RINO – a Republican in name only – and endorsed newcomer Steen, who lost to Vos by only a couple of hundred votes, Vos’s narrowest victory since he was first elected to the Assembly in 2005. Until this month’s election, no challenger – Democrat or Republican – had come within 16 percentage points of the Rochester Republican. Steen, who campaigned largely on a pledge to decertify President Joe Biden’s win, came within 3 percentage points.
The District 63 vote demonstrated the still long coattails of Trump, who continues to cling to baseless claims that the presidential race was stolen through election fraud. That power was also shown in the GOP gubernatorial primary in the state where Trump-endorsed businessman Tim Michels over party stalwart and former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. Michels won on a combination of Trump’s endorsement and a massive three month advertising campaign in which he spent $12 million.
In truth, Vos’s win came despite his own misstep when he appointed former state Supreme Court justice Michael Gableman to head an Office of Special Counsel to investigate “election irregularities” in the state in 2020.
Gableman’s “independent” probe instead turned into a highly partisan taxpayer-funded boondoggle that cost state taxpayers more than $1 million – including $100,000 that went into Gableman’s pockets – and turned up no evidence of fraud or issues that weren’t already known, such as the use of election drop boxes.
So what did taxpayers get for that $1 million? The probe was characterized by political grandstanding, shoddy record-keeping, court challenges and bogus expense claims. The fact is that only 24 people out of nearly 3.3 million who cast ballots in Wisconsin in the 2020 election have been charged with election fraud. None of them came from Gableman’s investigation.
One of the highlights of Gableman’s probe was his admission that he didn’t understand state election procedures.
The capper came a week before the election when Gableman, too, endorsed Vos’ challenger.
Small wonder then that at his election victory celebration, Vos said Gableman was an “embarrassment to the state.” Vos fired Gableman a few days later and closed the Office of Special Counsel. To which, we can only say: “What took you so long.”
The rift within the Republican Party with its election deniers and Trump’s continued influence on the far right will likely continue in the months ahead, creating more drama.
For now, we congratulate Vos on his win, he has served the 63rd Assembly District well over the years, and we’re grateful that former state justice Gableman and the Office of Special Counsel are finally folding their tents and their political circus is leaving town.
– Kenosha News