Press Release: Gov. Evers Slams Senate Republicans for Continued Efforts to Obstruct the Peaceful Transfer of Power by Baselessly Firing Appointees

Office of Governor Tony Evers
Gov. Evers Slams Senate Republicans for Continued Efforts to Obstruct the Peaceful Transfer of Power by Baselessly Firing Appointees
Governor names immediate appointments to ensure critical government operations continue 
MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers slammed Republicans in the Wisconsin State Senate, who voted today to baselessly fire seven of the governor’s appointees, respectively, to the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, Wisconsin Elections Commission, Wisconsin Medical Examining Board, and the Governor’s Council on Domestic Abuse. 

“This is insanity, and this is an issue of democracy—Republicans have to stop doing this,” said Gov. Evers. “These are good people they’re voting down today. These Wisconsinites are educators, healthcare professionals, survivors of domestic violence, advocates, and conservationists. And I don’t care if you’re a Republican, a Democrat, or otherwise, these Wisconsinites are completely qualified to do the job they’ve been asked to do, and they are volunteering their time, talent, and expertise without pay to serve their neighbors and our state. Harassing them, belittling them, and publicly firing them just because Republicans have decided that’s the way they want politics to work these days, well, that’s just plain wrong. 

“Whether it was firing our agricultural secretary in the midst of a statewide dairy crisis, threatening to fire our state’s health secretary in the throes of a pandemic, colluding with appointees to stay beyond their terms, attempting to illegally fire our state’s elections administrator, or now, firing exceptionally qualified citizen appointees, Republicans have a complete disregard for our democracy, the basic functions of our government, and hardworking Wisconsinites who volunteered to serve. Republicans’ behavior is wrong for Wisconsin, and it’s wrong for democracy,” Gov. Evers concluded.

Unfortunately, Republicans’ refusal to confirm Gov. Evers’ appointments represents a continued escalation of efforts by Wisconsin Republicans in recent years to upend basic functions of democracy, obstruct the peaceful and respectful transfer of power, and threaten, intimidate, and even baselessly fire individuals who may not share their political beliefs or who dare to publicly disagree with them. 

Wisconsin Republicans have consistently refused to confirm Gov. Evers’ appointees, leaving them unconfirmed for months—even years—without any regard for individuals’ professional experience and background, including public members of various boards and commissions volunteering their personal time, experience, and expertise to serve the state of Wisconsin and previously received bipartisan support. In 2019, in an unprecedented move, Senate Republicans voted to fire Gov. Evers’ cabinet appointment to lead the state’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) in the midst of a statewide dairy crisis—and despite widespread support from farmers and agricultural stakeholders—after he criticized Republicans for not releasing critical mental health funding for farmers. According to reporting by in 2019, records dating back to 1987 indicated that no gubernatorial cabinet nominee had been rejected by the Wisconsin State Senate, making Republicans’ move at the time completely unprecedented in modern Wisconsin history. In 2020, Republicans refused to confirm and even threatened to fire the secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic. 

According to data compiled by the governor’s office and the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau, at the start of Gov. Evers’ second term, nearly 180 individuals appointed by the governor to lead state agencies and serve on various boards and commissions had not been confirmed. 

Gov. Evers today also announced immediate successors to fill these critical roles on the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, Wisconsin Elections Commission, Wisconsin Medical Examining Board, and the Governor’s Council on Domestic Abuse, respectively, to ensure there is no disruption or delay in the ongoing work of these important bodies. 

Wisconsin Republicans in the Wisconsin State Senate today voted to fire four of Gov. Evers’ appointments to the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board (NRB)—Sandra Dee Naas, Jim VandenBrook, Dylan Bizhikiins Jennings, and Sharon Adams—aiming to leave the board without the necessary quorum to perform its work as required by Wisconsin state law. 

The decision by Wisconsin Republicans to fire the governor’s four exceptionally qualified NRB appointees—for which Republicans have publicly offered little to no justification or rationale—follows a years-long effort by Senate Republicans to block the governor’s appointments to the NRB. In 2021, Gov. Evers appointed and the Wisconsin State Senate refused to confirm Sandra Dee Naas, a conservationist, hunter, angler, and natural resources and agriculture educator from Northern Wisconsin, whose appointment meant Gov. Evers’ appointees for the first time had secured a majority vote on the NRB. Frederick Prehn, who was appointed under the previous administration and whose term expired in 2021, conspired with legislative Republicans and conservative allies in refusing to vacate his seat in order to prevent Naas from being able to serve on the board, thereby ensuring appointees by Gov. Evers could not attain a majority. In 2022, the conservative majority of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin sided with Prehn in a lawsuit, allowing him to stay in his seat until the Senate confirmed his replacement, effectively ensuring conservative control of the board and preventing Sandra Dee Naas from taking her seat on the board for nearly two years until Prehn resigned in 2023. 

In order to ensure the NRB’s important work is not delayed or impeded due to Republicans’ vote today, Gov. Evers immediately announced four new appointments to the NRB: Todd Ambs, Robin Schmidt, Patty Schachtner, and Douglas Cox. 

Todd Ambs worked in the field of environmental policy for 40 years and most recently served as the deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) before he retired in December 2021. Ambs has also served as the water division administrator for the DNR, executive director for the River Alliance of Wisconsin, and campaign director for Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. He is a former member of the Great Lakes Protection Fund, the Wisconsin Coastal Management Council, and the Council of Great Lakes Governors. Additionally, Ambs was appointed to the Great Lakes Compact Commission by former Gov. Jim Doyle in 2003, a position he has since been reappointed to by Gov. Evers. A photo of Ambs is available here, and he will serve a term ending in May 2029. 

Robin Schmidt retired from the DNR in 2018 after 34 years of state service, having most recently served as the chief of the environmental loans section. She is a licensed professional hydrologist with experience managing programs that work to improve the water quality of the state. Schmidt also previously served as the food and agricultural security/homeland security liaison at DATCP. A photo of Schmidt is available here, and she will serve a term ending in May 2027. 

Patty Schachtner, a lifelong resident of the St. Croix River Valley, served in the Wisconsin State Senate from 2018-21, representing the 10th Senate District. She now serves on the Somerset Community Food Pantry Board and the Board of Directors for Turningpoint Wisconsin, a center for victims and survivors of sexual and domestic violence. Schachtner previously served as chief medical examiner for St. Croix County, a healthcare provider at Somerset High School, and as an EMT for New Richmond Ambulance and Rescue. She has also previously served on the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband Access and the Governor’s Task Force on Caregiving. A photo of Schachtner is available here, and she will serve a term ending in May 2027.

Douglas Cox has more than 30 years of experience with the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin and is currently the Tribe’s land management director. Cox has also previously served as the Tribal chairperson, a forest monitoring specialist, and the environmental program coordinator for the Tribe’s environmental services department. He served as the chairman of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress and has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin (UW)-Green Bay in biology and environmental science. Cox is also a certified hunting education instructor. A photo of Cox is available here, and he will serve a term ending in May 2029. 

Wisconsin Republicans in the Wisconsin State Senate today voted to fire Joseph Czarnezki from the Wisconsin Elections Commission. Czarnezki was appointed by Gov. Evers in May 2023. Czarnezki previously served two terms as clerk of Milwaukee County. The move today represents the latest in Republicans’ three-plus years of efforts to interfere in Wisconsin’s elections and election administration, including attempting to disrupt and dismantle the Elections Commission—an entity Republicans themselves created only a few years ago when they enjoyed unified control of both the legislative and executive branches of government.

Just this summer, top legislative Republicans attended the Republican Party of Wisconsin state convention, where attendees were set to take up resolutions regarding topics such as abolishing the Wisconsin Elections Commission, putting the Legislature in charge of certifying electors, preventing college students from voting on campus, and severely restricting early voting. Republicans also recently announced their plan to rush through legislation to ensure Legislature-picked, Legislature-approved map drawers for legislative districts, securing partisan legislative control of the state’s redistricting process. 

Other attempts to interfere in the state’s elections by Republicans in Wisconsin have included:
Among Republicans’ years-long efforts to undermine democracy and interfere with Wisconsin’s elections most recently also included attempting to illegally fire and threatening to impeach the state’s chief elections administrator last month without cause—efforts Republicans acknowledged for the first time yesterday in public court filings were purely “symbolic” that they had neither legal ground nor power to make and admitting that Wolfe today remains legally in her position, despite their repeated and recent public comments to the contrary. 

Republicans’ vote to fire Czarnezki today represents yet another escalation of Republicans’ attempts to usurp control of the Elections Commission. Wisconsin Republicans’ decision to fire Czarnezki aimed to leave the Elections Commission with one fewer commissioner, thereby preventing a deadlock of the body that is equal in partisan makeup in an attempt to enable conservatives on the board to fire and replace Wisconsin’s current election administrator without cause. 

Pursuant to Wis. Stat. 15.62(1), Gov. Evers today announced Carrie Riepl will replace Joseph Czarnezki on the Wisconsin Elections Commission. Riepl’s appointment is effective immediately for a term ending in May 2026. 

Riepl has worked for the city of Eau Claire since 2011, serving as a human resources specialist and human resources manager and as the city clerk from 2017 to 2022. She completed the clerk’s institute at UW-Green Bay and has a bachelor’s degree in legal studies with a paralegal certificate from Hamline University. A photo of Riepl is available here

Wisconsin Republicans in the Wisconsin State Senate voted today to fire Dr. Sheldon Wasserman from the Medical Examining Board, a position he has held since 2019. Wasserman is an obstetrician and gynecologist with Ascension Wisconsin in Milwaukee and received his medical degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin in 1987. He has served as chair of the Medical Examining Board since he was appointed and was confirmed by the Wisconsin State Senate in 2019. Wasserman previously received confirmation and served as chair of the Medical Examining Board for more than four years during former Gov. Jim Doyle’s administration. 

Wasserman and the Medical Examining Board are plaintiffs in a case arguing against Wisconsin’s outdated criminal abortion ban that remains on the books, which was enacted in 1849 before the Civil War and at a time when Wisconsin women did not have the right to vote. Healthcare providers and patients in Wisconsin were thrown into legal uncertainty, and nearly all abortion services in the state ceased in June 2022 when the U.S. Supreme Court released a decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, upending nearly 50 years of a constitutional right to abortion that Wisconsinites and Americans have relied upon. Days later, Gov. Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul filed the lawsuit of which Wasserman and the Medical Examining Board are a part challenging Wisconsin’s criminal abortion ban and arguing that the ban is unenforceable. Because of advances in that case, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin recently announced they have resumed abortion care in Madison and Milwaukee. 

Gov. Evers announced today he is appointing Dr. Steven Leuthner to replace Wasserman on the Medical Examining Board for a term ending July 2027. 

Leuthner received his medical degree from the University of Chicago and a master’s degree in healthcare ethics at Loyola University of Chicago. He completed his pediatric residency and neonatology fellowship training at Northwestern University, during which he completed graduate work in bioethics. He is currently a professor of Pediatrics and Bioethics at the Medical College of Wisconsin. He practices neonatology and initiated, developed, and continues to have a leadership role in the Fetal Concerns Center. He is the medical director of the Palliative Care program at Children’s Wisconsin and serves on the hospital ethics committee. A photo of Leuthner is available here

Wisconsin Republicans in the Wisconsin State Senate voted today to fire Melissa Baldauff. Baldauff, a survivor of domestic violence and co-chair of the council, has served on the council since 2019. Republicans’ vote to fire Baldauff comes as Wisconsin saw a record year for deaths from domestic violence, with 96 people losing their lives in 2022, according to a newly released statewide report from End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin. This total represents a 20 percent increase in deaths from 2021 and the highest total since End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin began reporting this data in 2000. 

Gov. Evers today announced he is appointing Shannon Barry to replace Baldauff to serve on the Governor’s Council on Domestic Abuse. 

Barry has 25 years of domestic violence prevention and intervention experience and is currently the executive director of Domestic Abuse Intervention Services. She previously served as a social worker for the Madison Metropolitan School District and is a member of TEMPO Madison, the Dane County Commission on Sensitive Crimes, and the Dane County Coordinated Community Response to Domestic Violence. She is a survivor of intimate partner violence and holds a Master of Science in social work from UW-Madison. A photo of Barry is here, and she will serve a term ending in July 2025.