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Spat in the Senate: Chris Larson, Lena Taylor offer different versions of public dispute

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MADISON -- Senators Chris Larson and Lena Taylor had a very public dispute at the Capitol last week. The Milwaukee Democrats are offering up different versions of what happened. This, as FOX6 News has heard from multiple witnesses who say they were there during the dispute.

Capitol in Madison

Capitol in Madison

The incident in question happened at the Capitol on March 15th -- the last day of the Senate session.

In a statement, Senator Lena Taylor said:

"Prior to entering the floor, Senator Larson made several offensive comments, which were overheard by others. I was stunned by both the disrespectful content of his statements and that his words had quickly made their way to both social and local media."

Chris Larson

Chris Larson

"We`ve reached out to Senator Taylor and we`re looking to sit down and resolve this as soon as possible," Larson said.

In a statement, Senator Larson said:

"As I was approaching the Senate chambers, I ran into Senator Taylor. She began yelling at me, which was followed by some heated words from both sides."

Senate chambers at Capitol in Madison

Senate chambers at Capitol in Madison

FOX6 News has spoken with multiple witnesses who said they were near the Senate chambers when the senators got into it. None wanted to be identified, and none of them said there was any yelling. They described the conversation as "unpleasant" and "awkward."

One witness said he clearly heard Larson ask Taylor if she was "on her meds today."

"Senator Taylor and I will sit down, we`ll have a conversation. We`ll make sure we`re on the same page moving forward," Larson said.

Lena Taylor

Lena Taylor

Larson's statement also said:

"As the husband of a psychologist and a steadfast advocate for increased mental health care access, I want families personally affected by mental illness to know I am absolutely committed to improving our country's mental health care system."

Larson is running for Milwaukee County executive.

Wisconsin Senate

Wisconsin Senate

Incumbent Chris Abele has provided the following statement:

Senator Larsonā€™s threatening remarks to an accomplished African American woman ā€“ the first to co-chair Joint Finance Committee with far more experience and accomplishments than him, are offensive and astonishingly out of touch.Ā  Over 40 million Americans experience mental illness in a given year, from depression to Alzheimers.Ā  Our job as public officials is not to mock, but to empower.

Chris Larson's complete statement is below:

ā€œI want to address rumors that have been circulating over the last several days regarding a conversation I had with a Senate colleague last week.

Last Tuesday, as I was approaching the Senate chambers in the Capitol, I ran into Senator Taylor. She began yelling at me, which was followed by some heated words from both sides.

Since this conversation, we have made repeated attempts to meet with Senator Taylor to talk through and resolve our differences, then return our focus to moving Milwaukee County forward. We even reached out to one of my mentors, Congresswoman Gwen Moore to convene a meeting on neutral ground.

Despite my repeated offers to meet and the requests of Congresswoman Moore, Senator Taylor has remained unavailable to meet with me.

It seems rather than having a straightforward conciliatory meeting, our brief conversation is being used as a political distraction. Having her allies, like former Alderman Mike McGee, harass my campaign staff and volunteers, or disrupt important community events is simply uncalled for, especially given my repeated offers to sit down face-to-face and work through our differences.

These aggressive tactics lead me to believe that this is not about working past a Ā personal difference, but a cynical attempt to advance a political agenda along with my opponent. This race is about the failed leadership our county has been under for the past 5 years.

For Chris Abele to get involved with an exchange of words between two colleagues reveals this for the desperate political attack it is. We won't allow it to change the focus of this race. Milwaukee county is heading in the wrong direction and it's time for a change. No sideshows and none of his weird ads will change that.

It is worth pointing out that Abele currently has two discrimination lawsuits pending against him. One is from Jonette Arms, the interim director of the Department of Aging whom Abele refuses to promote in spite of her nationally recognized expertise on aging issues. The second lawsuit concerns Abeleā€™s gutting a federal decree involving seniority for African Americans who work for the county.

In contrast, my campaign is based on the premise of diverse communities working together. Thatā€™s why I am proud to have earned the support and endorsements of community leaders like Congresswoman Gwen Moore, State Senator Nikiya Harris Dodd, State Representatives David Bowen, Leon Young, and La Tonya Johnson, as well as many other prominent leaders in the African American community.

While there are those who would use any opportunity to divide people, we cannot lose focus on the fact that the incumbent is dangerously out of touch with the concerns and needs of working families and our neighbors.

As the husband of a psychologist and a steadfast advocate for increased mental health care access and better services, I want families personally affected by mental illness to know that I am absolutely committed to improving our Countyā€™s mental health care system. As my supporters know, I am passionate about Ā ensuring access to services and support for our neighbors with mental health needs. We will reverse the gag order preventing workers from pointing out problems and will allow the public to weigh in at every meeting to ensure community care is working for the community.

I remain hopeful that we will quickly get past the politics and resolve this personally.Ā  Moving forward, I again ask Senator Taylor to sit down and talk with Congresswoman Moore and myself."

Lena Taylor's complete statement is below:

"Prior to enteringĀ the Senate floorĀ onĀ March 15th, Senator Chris Larson and IĀ were engaged in aĀ discussion. Ā During the conversation, Sen. LarsonĀ made several offensive comments, which were overheard by others. Ā IĀ was stunned by bothĀ theĀ disrespectful content of his statementsĀ and that his words had quickly made their way to both social and local media. Ā I appreciate the support Iā€™ve received from those in the community who have reached out to me during this unfortunate situation."


  • EricMRussell

    …My best friend’s step-aunt makes $87 hourly on the computer using his Facebook Account. She has been out of work for nine months but last month her paycheck was $12968 just working on the computer for a few hours….~~!!~~
    >>>>>>>>>> Check This Special-Work-At-Home…

  • Sugar may Leonard

    Whoa. Did he just try to subtly blame her and out her mental health issues. I don’t even like Lena much, but that is rude as hayll. Sounds like he feels superior to her.

  • Sugar may Leonard

    And, by the way, that long list of African American supporters – that’s the equivalent of saying “I’m not racist! I’ve got a black friend!”. I think he just realized that you can’t be racist or rude about someone’s personal issues in private, then expect them to honor and respect you in public. Looks like Larsens ‘s true colors are shining through.

  • Jenny

    Low energy candidate. It seems to me that one is going to use the little spat against the other to promote their agenda and it will fail miserably with the voters since it has been proven that the county board is a waste of money and Milwaukee county is a failure except for Sheriff Clarke, he’s the only one that has some common sense and could run the county as a side job for fun.

  • bozo

    The N words that are part of Milwaukee politics are uneducated id10ts, a bunch of old welfare ho’s that have a big mouth

  • chris

    Taylor needs to be on meds. I’m shocked she hasn’t made it a race issue yet. “What you mean on my meds those pill be white and ain’t nothin’ white keeping me in check.”

Comments are closed.