MADISON, Wis. – The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Senate voted Tuesday to fire the state agriculture secretary appointed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.
Before the vote, state senators debated whether to confirm Brad Pfaff after the chamber’s top Republican leader signaled plans to fire the secretary-designee.
After taking office earlier this year, Evers named Pfaff as the secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
But Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald signaled that he would not confirm Pfaff.
Tuesday’s vote to oust Pfaff is the first rejection of a Wisconsin governor’s Cabinet pick in more than 30 years.
“There’s a number of members of the majority that just aren’t comfortable with Brad Pfaff,” Fitzgerald said on the Senate floor Tuesday.
Evers called the move “unexpected” because Pfaff was one of the first Cabinet picks to be recommended for approval. A Republican-led Senate committee recommended Pfaff unanimously on a 9-0 vote in February.
The controversy over Pfaff’s confirmation stems from the secretary-designee criticizing the Republican-controlled state budget committee for not releasing money in July for mental health assistance for farmers.
“Republicans have chosen to leave farmers behind,” Pfaff said in a statement in July.
Democrats and many agricultural groups are fighting to keep Pfaff in the position he has held for 10 months.
On the Senate floor Tuesday, state Sen. Jon Erpenbach said that the debate over Pfaff’s confirmation was not about the secretary-designee’s qualifications but Republican legislative leaders’ inability to accept a Democratic governor.
“Agriculture is in Brad’s DNA,” said Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling.