By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — State lawmakers unanimously confirmed five of Gov. Tony Evers’ Cabinet secretaries on Tuesday but took no action on Evers’ choice for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
The vote means it’s still an open question whether Craig Thompson will be officially named WisDOT secretary. Thompson has been serving as acting secretary for months now as he awaits confirmation. His appointment to the secretary position was recommended by a legislative committee in August but has yet to go before the full Senate for a vote.
The confirmation votes taken Tuesday were the first for any of Evers’ agency secretaries since the governor took office in January. Those confirmed 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 about several of those who have yet to be confirmed. Thompson, for instance, has had to face questions about his past work as a lobbyist for the Wisconsin Transportation Development Association, a group that represents highway contractors and that has called for raising more money for roads. Some Republicans have cast doubt on the proprietary of having someone with that history be in a position overseeing so much of the road-building industry.
Separately, Brad Pfaff — Evers’ nominee to be secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection — angered some Republicans in July after he had criticized the Legislature’s budget committee for not releasing money for a mental-health program for farmers. That money has since been issued, but Pfaff’s confirmation remains stalled.
Also awaiting confirmation is Dawn Crim, Evers’ nominee for secretary of the Department of Safety and Professional Services, which regulates various professions and trades. She has faced questions from Republicans about a child-abuse charge from 2005 that was filed after she had jabbed 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.
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 confirmations.