MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Two Republican state lawmakers resigned Friday to take jobs with Gov. Scott Walker's administration, the latest departures from the Legislature that will force the GOP to defend the seats with no incumbents on the ballot.
Sen. Frank Lasee, of De Pere, and Rep. Keith Ripp, of Lodi, will begin working for Walker on Monday. There will be no special elections to fill the vacancies, Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said. Both seats will be filled in the regular November election.
The immediate impact of the departures will be negligible, given that the Legislature was only expected to be in session a few days in 2018 before adjourning for the year in early spring.
Given the session was expected to be brief, and that staff will remain in place all year to field constituent concerns, the governor decided against calling special elections because of the cost to taxpayers, Evenson said.
With the departures, Republican control of the Assembly will slip to 62-34 with three vacancies. Republican control in the Senate will be 18-13 with two vacancies. Republicans held four of the five vacant seats.
The openings give Democrats a chance to gain seats in the Legislature without having the more difficult task of taking on incumbents.
"Didn't know the memo for republican incumbents was to not run 2018... interesting strategy," tweeted Democratic Party vice chairman, state Rep. David Bowen, of Milwaukee, tweeted.
Three of the five vacancies — two in the Assembly and one in the Senate — will be decided in a Jan. 16 special election. The two open Assembly seats — one previously held by a Democrat and another by a Republican — are in safe districts for each party and aren't expected to change hands.
But Democrats are competing in the northwestern Wisconsin state Senate seat that will be filled in two weeks. Republican Rep. Adam Jarchow, of Balsam Lake, faces St. Croix County medical examiner Patty Schachtner.
That vacancy was created when state Sen. Sheila Harsdorf resigned in November to become secretary of the state for the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. She had held the seat since 2001.
Ripp resigned Friday to take the No. 3 position at DATCP as assistant deputy secretary.
Ripp, 56, raises livestock and grows grain on the family farm in Lodi. He and his wife also operate a trucking business. Ripp is the former president and vice president of the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board and the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association.
Ripp has been in the Assembly since 2009. He will make about $105,000, more than double his $50,950 salary as a legislator.
Ripp's district is just north of Madison and includes most of Columbia County, as well as parts of Dane, Dodge, Fond du Lac, Green Lake and Marquette counties.
Lasee has been in the Senate since 2011 and previously served in the Assembly from 1995 to 2007. He resigned to become the administrator for the Department of Workforce Development's Worker's Compensation Division. Lasee will make about $101,000 a year.
Lasee's Senate district includes portions of Door, Kewaunee, Maitowoc, Brown and Calumet counties. His cousin, fellow Republican Alan Lasee, held the seat for 33 years prior to Frank Lasee's election.
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