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MADISON, Wis. - A group led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has filed suit in Dane County Court to force Gov. Scott Walker to hold special elections in two districts.
In December, two Republican state legislators, Sen. Frank Lasee of DePere and Rep. Keith Ripp of Lodi, resigned their seats to take jobs in the Walker administration. State law says the governor must call a special election to fill the seats before the second Tuesday in May in the year in which a regular election is held.
Mike Brown, deputy director of the progressive organization One Wisconsin Now, said the governor is stalling. "His argument is basically that, well, 2017, last year, wasn't an election year so he's not under any obligation to call it," Brown said; "which is really kind of ridiculous on its face when you consider basically what that means is that the seats will be open even longer."
Walker said his decision is consistent with the law, and argued that calling special elections for the two empty seats would be a waste of money. According to Brown, if Holder's group wins the lawsuit, the governor will be forced to call special elections to fill the seats. Brown said he thinks it's pretty clear what's going on. "They are scared of putting Republicans on the ballot right now," Brown contended. "They lost a special election in the state just a couple months ago, a seat that had been held by a Republican for a very long time, and they suffered a crushing defeat, and they're obviously scared to put their agenda before the voters again."
Republicans say the governor is right, and there's no need to incur the the cost of a special election. Democrats say that without the special elections, the citizens of those districts will be without representation in Madison for more than a year. If no special elections are ordered, the seats will be filled in the regular election in November.