Protests erupt as Wisconsin GOP attempt to disempower Democrats following Scott Walker's loss

Michigan's Republican-led legislature is also trying to disempower the state's newly-elected Democratic governor

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published December 3, 2018 4:53PM (EST)

Rick Snyder; Scott Walker (AP/Getty/Salon)
Rick Snyder; Scott Walker (AP/Getty/Salon)

Republican-controlled legislatures in two midwestern states, Michigan and Wisconsin, have moved to reduce the powers of their newly-elected Democratic governors weeks before they take office.

Wisconsin state lawmakers were met with an emergency protest at the state capitol on Monday ahead of a vote to wrestle power away from Democrat Tony Evers, who defeated GOP Governor Scott Walker in last month's midterm election. Republicans have also targeted the state's incoming Democratic attorney general — who campaigned on removing Wisconsin from a lawsuit filed by red states against the Affordable Care Act — and voters in the state, with proposals to drastically cut down on early voting, as The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

Republican lawmakers are seeking to limit voter turnout and want to take away key powers from the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general before GOP Gov. Scott Walker leaves office in January.

The sweeping plan — to be taken up Tuesday — would remove Gov.-elect Tony Evers' power to approve major actions by Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul and give that authority to Republican lawmakers.

That could mean the campaign promise made by Evers and Kaul to immediately withdraw Wisconsin from a federal lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act would likely be blocked.


In Michigan, a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by state Rep. Rob VerHeulen, R-Walker, which would ensure that the legislature could intervene in legal battles over various state laws that Democrats may be reluctant to join, according to The Detroit News. This bill has been proposed at the same time as a theoretically unrelated law by Sen. Dave Robertson, R-Grand Blanc, that would transfer oversight of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act to a "fair political practices commission" instead of being concentrated in the hands of the Secretary of State's Office.

These bills would, in effect, limit the power of three Democrats who won top offices in the state during the 2018 elections: Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

"The people spoke in November. Republicans refuse to hear and seek to hold on to power-by any means. This is not good for our democracy. Time for the people in Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin to be heard-again. Contact these legislators/let them know you oppose this action," former Attorney General Eric Holder wrote on Twitter on Sunday regarding the proposed actions by the legislatures in Michigan and Wisconsin.

Holder's reference to North Carolina alluded to how that state responded to the election of Democrat Roy Cooper to the governor's mansion in 2016 by pushing through a last minute bill that limited his powers, according to The New York Times. This included requiring legislative approval for his cabinet appointments and making it impossible for him to make appointments to various state and local boards that had previously been solely under the governor's purview.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Donald Trump Gretchen Whitmer Michigan North Carolina Republican Party Roy Cooper Tony Evers Wisconsin