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“This was a vote against Wisconsin farmers” – Gov. Evers reacts to Ag secretary fired from his job

MADISON (WKOW) — Governor Tony Evers was outraged by Senate Republican’s decision to reject the confirmation of his pick to lead the state’s Agriculture agency.

Brad Pfaff was Evers Cabinet Secretary to lead the Department of Agriculture, Trade, Consumer Protection (DATCP) agency, a job he’s held since January.  

Evers, who appeared in a rare occasion on the Senate floor during the debate, said Republicans sent a message to farmers who are dealing with a farm crisis and on-going trade war.

“This was a vote against Wisconsin farmers, period,” said Evers after the vote.

Since Pfaff was not confirmed, he loses his job at DATCP. Lame-duck laws passed in December prevent Gov. Evers from re-appointing Pfaff or any other Cabinet official who is rejected by the Senate.

Evers said he’s not sure if he will move up the deputy DATCP secretary to fill Pfaff’s position, stating he’s still “P.O’d” after Republican’s decision.

“The message we are sending to the rest of the secretary designee’s (is) stay in your place folks… you can’t think about things rationally you just have to keep your mouth shut.”

Sen. Fitzerald said Pfaff upset some Republicans when he criticized them for not moving fast enough on releasing $200,000 to fund mental health and suicide prevention services for farmers.

“Governor Evers is right about one thing: farmers are struggling,” said Fitzgerald in a statement. “Unfortunately, his pick for DATCP secretary was part of the problem, not the solution. He tried to place burdensome rules on Wisconsin farmers at a time they can least afford it and repeatedly engaged in partisan political games targeting the Legislature.”

Fitzerald added there could be more of Gov. Evers appointees that don’t have enough support to be confirmed, predicting there will be similar debates in the future. Fitzgerald did not clarify which secretaries he’s referring to.

“They might have to keep their mouths shut for the next four years — who knows — in order to get approved in this Senate that is just absolute bull****,” said Evers in response to the possibility additional secretaries could face similar outcomes. 

This is the first time since 1987 a governor’s secretary has been rejected by the Senate, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau, as far as their records go back.

The final vote was 19-14 along party lines to reject the nomination. The vote was not unexpected after Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) told Gov. Evers on Friday to withdraw Pfaff’s nomination because there wasn’t enough support in his caucus.

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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