MADISON (WKOW) — In a historic vote, Senate Republicans voted to reject the confirmation of Brad Pfaff the head of Wisconsin’s Agriculture agency.
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.
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.
Evers, who appeared in a rare occasion on the Senate floor during the debate, said in a statement this move by Republicans is “unprecedented in modern Wisconsin history.”
Since Pfaff was not confirmed, he loses his cabinet position to lead the Department of Agriculture, Trade, Consumer Protection (DATCP) agency, a job he’s held since January.
Lame-duck laws passed in December prevent Gov. Evers from re-appointing Pfaff or any other Cabinet official who is rejected by the Senate.
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.
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.
Democrats criticized Republicans on the Senate’s Committee on Agriculture, Revenue and Financial Institutions who in February unanimously voted to recommend Pfaff’s confirmation.
Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) said Republicans are “playing politics” by not confirming Pfaff to “attack Governor Evers and score political points.”
Numerous agriculture organizations and lawmakers attempted to defend Pfaff’s record ahead of the controversial vote, making calls to Republicans to change their vote.
Groups include the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association, Dairy Business Association, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, and the Wisconsin Agri-Business Association.