She has a good case – if she chooses to pursue it.
Him checking himself into a treatment center isn’t going to help anybody weasel out of this.
Updated 4:10PM: Article from Patrick Marley and M.J.Sentinel which details harassment.
Madison — Assembly Republicans ousted Rep. Bill Kramer as majority leader Tuesday after accusations that he sexually harassed one woman and inappropriately touched another.
Hours later, they replaced him for the time being with Rep. Pat Strachota (R-West Bend). She is not seeking re-election this fall, so Assembly Republicans will have to find someone else for the post in 2015, when the next session starts.
The Republican caucus took the vote to remove Kramer after meeting in closed session for 90 minutes. The tally was taken by secret ballot, but Rep. Joan Ballweg (R-Markesan) said afterward the vote was unanimous.
“Representative Kramer has lost the trust and confidence of the Assembly Republican caucus,” said Rep.Mary Williams (R-Medford), who made the motion to remove him from office.
Kramer, of Waukesha, is accused of groping a legislative aide and making crude remarks to a lobbyist last week while in Washington, D.C., for a fundraiser. His aides have said he has checked himself into an unspecified treatment program, and he was not present for Tuesday’s vote.
Most of his aides will be reassigned as a result of the vote, since leadership offices have more staff than rank and file legislators.
“We need to, as a caucus, hold Representative Kramer accountable for the actions he allegedly did this past week,” said Rep. Daniel LeMahieu (R-Cascade) in advocating for removing Kramer before the vote.
Gov. Scott Walker and others have called on him to resign from the Legislature if the allegations are true.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) did not directly answer whether he believed Kramer should be censured by the Assembly. He noted the legislative session ends in less than a month and said he presumed Kramer would remain in treatment until then.
Vos called Kramer’s alleged actions reprehensible and said lawmakers who witnessed one of last week’s incidents recounted it during the closed portion of the meeting.
Sources have said Kramer is accused of hugging a legislative staffer and touching her breasts at a social event after the fundraiser. He then allegedly made vulgar remarks about his sexual prowess to the lobbyist on the night of Feb. 26 and again the next day on a flight back to Wisconsin.
An allegation of a third possible incident involving a Wisconsin congressional staffer emerged Monday. Sources said this incident involving Kramer occurred in the “recent past,” not at the February fundraiser. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel does not identify the names of possible victims of sexual assaults or harassment unless they agree.
Tuesday, former Assembly Rep. Kelda Helen Roys, a Madison Democrat who like Kramer once served in Assembly leadership, said that in 2011 she asked Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) to keep her committee assignments with Kramer to a minimum. Roys, 34, said that she made that request because of the “creepy” way that Kramer, 49, touched her back or shoulder on a couple of occasions.
“I would not say it was blatantly inappropriate,” Roys said, explaining that she felt the best response was to limit her contact with him.
Barca confirmed that he had discussed Kramer’s behavior with Roys but said that no other Democratic staffers or lawmakers had brought similar concerns to him.
Kaufert’s bar sign
Also Tuesday, Rep. Dean Kaufert (R-Neenah) acknowledged that for 12 years a sign hung in a bar he owns that says, “Men — no shirt, no shoes no service; Women — no shirt, free beer, free pizza.” Kaufert, who is running for Neenah mayor April 1, said he had a manager take down the sign about 10 minutes after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel asked about it.
The sign was already posted when he bought the bar, he said. “It’s different in a bar. I think it was (hung) in a jestful way back then,” he said.
The vote on Kramer took place as a bipartisan pair of lawmakers and Zonta, an advocacy group for the rights of women around the world, celebrated International Women’s Day in the Assembly parlor. Kathi Vos, partnership chair for the Madison chapter of Zonta, said the irony wasn’t lost on her.
“Behavior like that shouldn’t be tolerated,” said Vos, who has not met the Assembly speaker but said he might be a distant relation.
The women’s day event was hosted by Reps. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) and Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton).
An hour after removing Kramer from his leadership post, Assembly Republicans chose Strachota as his temporary replacement. Republicans wanted someone who was retiring to fill the job because they plan to meet just two more times on the floor before the legislative session ends next month.
Strachota beat Williams — who also is not seeking re-election — for the job. In a twist, the two nominated each other for the post, saying they were good friends.
The majority leader is responsible for scheduling bills for floor votes and moving floor proceedings along. The majority leader also helps run political campaigns.
Strachota will leave the powerful Joint Finance Committee to take the job as majority leader. The speaker said he would appoint Williams to the committee in Strachota’s place.
Strachota is the first woman to hold the No. 2 post in the Assembly. No woman has ever served as Assembly speaker, the top job in that chamber.
In the state Senate, both Republicans and Democrats have elected women as majority leader in the past. That’s the most powerful job in that house.
Rep. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) raised concerns about Kramer’s behavior at the time, but Robin Vos said Tuesday no one at the time suspected Kramer of behavior such as what allegedly occurred last week.