MADISON, Wis. (AP) — State Sen. Rick Gudex, a Republican from Fond du Lac, has died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the Fond du Lac County sheriff’s department said Wednesday. He was 48.
The sheriff’s department said his body was discovered around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday in the town of Eden. The preliminary investigation concluded that Gudex died of what appears to be a single gunshot wound to the chest. Toxicology results were pending, the sheriff’s department said.
Gov. Scott Walker and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle put politics aside Wednesday to remember him.
“Rick was a good man who served his community and state well, and he will be missed,” Walker said in a statement. “Our hearts and our prayers go out to his wife Kim and their two children during this difficult time.”
“Rick will be deeply missed by his Senate colleagues,” said Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.
Gudex was elected to the Senate in 2012 and served in the position of president pro tempore last year, but was not seeking election to a second term. The race for his seat, including parts of Winnebago and Fond du Lac counties, is the most hotly contested in the Legislature this year. Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris is running against Republican Dan Feyen, of Fond du Lac. Republicans held a 19-14 advantage in the Senate this session.
Whoever replaces Gudex will begin his term in January. Given that the seat will be vacant for less than three months, and the election is so close, Walker will not order a special election to fill the seat, his spokesman Tom Evenson said.
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling said she was “shocked and saddened,” at the news of Gudex’s death. Republican Sen. Leah Vukmir, of Brookfield, said the state has suffered a “tremendous loss.”
“Rick was a true citizen legislator who came to work at the Capitol at a time when he felt his friends and neighbors needed him,” Vukmir said. “The people of Fond du Lac and Winnebago counties always knew they had an advocate for them with Rick representing them in Madison.”
Gudex, a former mayor of Mayville and member of the Fond du Lac Common Council, was married and had two children.
He served in the Senate as chairman of the Economic Development and Commerce Committee; vice chairman of the Workforce Development, Public Works and Military Affairs Committee; and a member of the Universities and Technical Colleges Committee and the Joint Legislative Council.
He also served as a board member of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.