Political Update: Assembly Democrats Choose New Leaders; DOA Secretary Brennan Leaving in January

Democratic members of the Wisconsin Assembly selected new leaders at a caucus meeting on December 20. A majority of the caucus’ 38 members voted to elect Representatives Greta Neubauer (D-Racine) and Kalan Haywood (D-Milwaukee) as the Assembly’s new minority leader and assistant minority leader, respectively. Rep. Neubauer ran unopposed for the position, while Rep. Haywood faced Reps. Jodi Emerson (D-Eau Claire) and Supreme Moore Omokunde (D-Milwaukee).

The leadership election was scheduled after outgoing Minority Leader Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) announced that he was stepping down effective January 10, 2022. Rep. Hintz indicated a desire to spend more time with his family and in his own legislative district. He has not indicated whether he will run again in 2022. Rep. Hintz has served as minority leader since 2017.

Around the same time as Rep. Hintz’s announcement, outgoing Assistant Minority Leader Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton) announced that she would leave her leadership role in mid-February. She plans to run for Senate in the 27th District, which includes her own Assembly district and is currently represented by Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-West Point). Sen. Erpenbach announced recently that he would not seek reelection in 2022.

One of Rep. Neubauer’s first decisions as minority leader next year will be to appoint a replacement for herself on the Joint Committee on Finance. The caucus will also need to choose a new sergeant at arms to replace Rep. Haywood, who currently serves in that role.

The Assembly Democratic Caucus’ other leaders are Minority Caucus Chair Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit), Minority Caucus Vice-Chair Lisa Subeck (D-Madison), and Minority Caucus Secretary Beth Meyers (D-Bayfield). Reps. Emerson and Spreitzer considered running for minority leader but ultimately decided not to.

Rep. Neubauer, 30, will be the youngest person to lead a legislative caucus in Wisconsin since 1943, when Republican Sen. John Byrnes was elected majority leader at age 29.

Brennan Leaving Evers Administration in January

In mid-December, Gov. Tony Evers (D) announced that Secretary of Administration Joel Brennan would step down from his role on January 17. Brennan is leaving the administration to take a job as head of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, a nonprofit civic and advocacy organization based in Wisconsin’s largest city. Brennan has led the Department of Administration (DOA) from the beginning of Gov. Evers’ time in office. Kathy Kotlin Blumenfeld, currently Secretary of the Department of Financial Institutions (DFI), will take over for Brennan, while DFI Deputy Secretary Cheryll Olson-Collins will replace Blumenfeld as head of the state’s financial regulating agency.

DOA is responsible for a variety of state programs and services, including personnel management, executive budget and finance, enterprise operations and technology, and the Wisconsin State Capitol Police.