By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party announced Wednesday that he is stepping down from the volunteer position he has held since April 2019, covering one of the most tumultuous times in modern political history.
Andrew Hitt departure comes just over a year before the 2022 midterm election where Republicans are trying to retain the U.S. Senate seat held by Ron Johnson and defeat Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.
Hitt, 43, said he will leave the post upon election of a successor, which will take place by early September. Hitt, from Appleton, is an attorney with the Michael
Best and Friedrich law firm and also is a partner in its lobbying arm, Michael Best Strategies. Hitt said he was leaving to focus on his family and private sector career.
“It’s bittersweet to step down now with such an exciting election cycle ahead, but I know it is the right thing to do for my family and employer after the sacrifices they made so I could provide steady leadership at a crucial time,” Hitt said in a statement.
Hitt was a visible chairman, working closely both with party activists, insiders and office holders, raising money and also being the public face for the GOP in the media. During his time as chairman, the state GOP opened its first office in Milwaukee and also suffered a cyberattack where $2.3 million was stolen.
Hitt previously worked in then-Gov. Scott Walker’s administration in a variety of roles, including assistant deputy secretary at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Department of Administration.
Hitt took over as state GOP chairman just after the 2018 election that saw Republicans lose every statewide race, including governor and U.S. Senate, and then-House Speaker Paul Ryan announced his retirement. Hitt worked on rebuilding the party as then-President Donald Trump was running for reelection and as the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020.
Hitt worked to win Wisconsin for Trump, but President Joe Biden carried the state by just short of 21,000 votes.
“I am grateful for the opportunity and trust Republican leaders placed in me to rebuild the party from the ground up ahead of races for governor, U.S. Senate, and attorney general in 2022,” Hitt said.
Johnson has not said whether he will seek a third Senate term, but eight Democrats have announced plans to run. Evers is seeking a second term and no Republicans have officially announced their candidacies, but former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and lobbyist Bill McCoshen are expected to run.
Iris Riis, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Democratic Party, reacted to Hitt’s leaving by saying, “Whoever they have as party chair, Wisconsin Republicans have shown they only have one true leader: Donald Trump.”