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Gov. Evers undecided on seeking a second term, reflects on 2020

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MADISON (WKOW) -- After a whirlwind year dealing with a devastating pandemic and courts interfering with nearly every executive order enacted to curb the spread of the COVID-19, Governor Tony Evers said he’s not sure if he'll run for a second term.

“I have not made up my mind yet," Evers said to 27 News. "I’m too busy on other things whether it’s the budget or COVID-19 and so on."

When reflecting on his second year of office, Gov. Evers said he doesn’t have any regrets but said his inability to enact mitigation orders throughout the pandemic was one of the most difficult things he had to deal with.

“We had to face the facts that our ability as a state to mitigate the spread was imperil,” Evers said referring to the State Supreme Court striking down his 'Safter at Home' order. “We had more people become sick and die because of our inability to grasp some of the important mitigation strategies other states used.”

From some of the first restrictions enacted by his health secretary in March ordering bars, restaurants, and schools to close to the ‘Safer at Home’ order encouraging Wisconsinites to stay home, the governor faced criticism over his actions. 

Evers said his administration did what it could, focusing on contact tracing, testing, and using federal funding to help industries impacted by the pandemic. 

“I’m proud of our administration's ability to respond to (the coronavirus) given the circumstances,” he said.

As more doses of the coronavirus vaccine are distributed across the state, the governor said he doesn’t have plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions any time soon.

“At some point in time we will but it will take a while to vaccinate the general public.”

The only statewide order still in effect requiring residents to wear face coverings in public, which is set to expire on January 19th. Evers said he plans on extending but did not provide any additional details.

Beyond COVID-19, Evers said he wanted to see progress made on police reform when looking back on 2020. In wake of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, Evers called a special session on police accountability legislation but no progress was made.

The session lasted less than a minute after the Republican legislature refused to convene to take up measures introduced by Democrats centered around police transparency.

COVID-19 Tests, Vaccination timeline

The governor said he has only been tested once for COVID-19 when he was required to get one before entering the scaled down Democratic Convention in Milwaukee over the summer. 

“I don’t anticipate getting another test because I’m in the position where I’m not interacting with people that could possibly be infected,” Evers said.

The governor said he only has a few people in his inner circle including some staff at the executive residence and the first lady Kathy Evers.

The 69-year-old and cancer survivor also said he will take the COVID-19 vaccine when the time comes for his age group to be vaccinated.

“I’m not going to jump in line, we have a lot of people that deserve to get it first," Evers said. 

Negotiations on COVID-19 Relief Bill 

Negotiations between Gov. Evers and GOP leaders on another round of relief for industries impacted by COVID-19 continue to face hurdles.

Most recently incoming Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu called out the governor for ending negotiations on a COVID-19 relief package after Evers offered him and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos a compromise bill. 

“Unfortunately, Governor Evers cherry-picked various proposals from the negotiations and then released them…this is not a compromise and it is not leadership,” LeMahieu said in a statement.

Evers brushed off those comments arguing he’s not giving up on negotiations, instead offering a package both sides are in favor of.

“The compromise bill is something we’ve all agreed too so it’s hard to say I’m walking away from anything,” Evers said.

When asked if Evers is losing faith in finding a compromise on another relief package, he said he’s hopeful but is concerned it could take weeks.

“I’m sure they have plenty of poison pills that I see from their side, so let’s get something accomplished now, the people expect it," Evers said.

It’s been over eight months since the state legislature passed the COVID-19 relief bill, the only piece of legislation passed in 2020. 

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Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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