Wisconsin Senate confirms 5 of Governor Tony Evers’ Cabinet secretaries

Governor Tony Evers

MADISON — Five of Gov. Tony Evers’ Cabinet secretaries won unanimous confirmation by the Republican-controlled Senate on Tuesday, while the majority of the Democratic governor’s selections remain in limbo nearly a year after they began work.

The Senate confirmation votes were the first for any of Evers’ agency secretaries since he took office in January. The 11 other secretaries can remain on the job leading their respective state agencies unless the Senate votes to reject their confirmation.

Those confirmed on Tuesday were Revenue Secretary Peter Barca, a former Democratic state Assembly member and congressman; Financial Institutions Secretary Kathy Blumenfeld; Administration Secretary Joel Brennan; Corrections Secretary Kevin Carr; and Veterans Affairs Secretary Mary Kolar.

There was no debate.

Republicans have raised concerns with several of those who have yet to be confirmed. That fight has largely played out in the back halls of the Capitol, giving Republicans a way to foil the will of the Democratic governor by stalling Senate confirmation.

One of those awaiting a vote is Department of Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson. Some Republicans have questioned the propriety of him leading the department given his past work as a lobbyist for the Wisconsin Transportation Development Association, a group that advocated for road builders and others who supported investing in infrastructure.

Thompson is well-known and liked by many lawmakers and his confirmation was unanimously recommended by a Senate committee on a bipartisan vote.

Brad Pfaff, secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, angered some Republicans in July after he criticized the Legislature’s budget committee for not releasing funding for a farmer mental health program. That funding has since been released, but Pfaff’s confirmation remains stalled.

Also awaiting confirmation is Dawn Crim as head of the department that licenses and regulates a variety of professional occupations. She faced questions from Republicans about her qualifications and a 2005 felony child abuse charge after jabbing her 5-year-old son’s hand with a pen. The charge was later dismissed.

Evers has stood by Crim and all of his appointees.

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