Wisconsin’s Republican state lawmakers have been declared the “second most conservative in the nation” by the Conservative Political Action Conference’s Center for Legislative Accountability.
State rankings provided Wednesday by CPAC indicate that Wisconsin’s legislative Republicans received an average conservative rating of 91.5%, which trails only Florida, where GOP lawmakers voted “for conservative principles a staggering 96% of the time.”
“The gallant work of Wisconsin Republican lawmakers to block the radical agenda of Gov. Tony Evers has placed the delegation as the second most conservative in the nation,” the conservative conference said in a statement.
The rankings are based on how lawmakers vote in 186 policy areas ranging from cultural and life issues to tax, fiscal and regulatory policies.
The latest rankings came just before Republicans in the Legislature were preparing to reject a special session called by Evers seeking to repeal Wisconsin’s abortion ban, an 1849 law that’s remained on the books but has sat dormant since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Evers, a Democrat, called on the Legislature to take up the repeal as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule this month in a case that could end Roe v. Wade and allow Wisconsin’s ban to go back into effect.
While Evers has the power to call special sessions, the GOP-controlled Legislature does not have to take action on any legislation during the session. The Legislature has rejected Evers’ special sessions on gun control, distributing $150 checks to Wisconsinites and expanding Medicaid.
According to the center’s ratings, 15 of Wisconsin’s 21 GOP state Senators hold conservative ratings of 90% or more. Fifty-six of the Assembly’s 58 Republicans received a conservative rating of at least 90%.
Among Republicans, Senate President Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, rated highest in conservative rankings at 95%, while Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, ranked the lowest with 76%.
In the Assembly, Reps. Scott Krug, of Nekoosa, Warren Petryk, of the town of Washington, Shae Sortwell, of Two Rivers, and Gary Tauchen, of Bonduel, rated highest with 96%. Rep. Chuck Wichgers, R-Muskego, rated the lowest with 82%.
All told, Wisconsin’s Senate saw its Republican average drop by 4 percentage points since last year to 89%, while the Assembly climbed by 8 points to 92%, according to the rankings.
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Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is the Democratic U.S. Senate frontrunner according to the Marquette Law School Poll, called for nationwide abortion protections and the abolition of the filibuster to achieve that goal.
“I firmly believe in every woman’s right to make decisions about her own body," he said in a statement. "Politicians have no right to put restrictions on that decision."
Barnes said he would vote in favor of the Women's Health Protection Act, the leading effort to codify the right to an abortion nationwide.
The measure would permit abortions any time before fetal viability and after viability as long as the pregnancy could pose a risk to the pregnant patient's life or health.
Milwaukee Bucks executive-on-leave Alex Lasry also said he supports Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin's Women's Health Protection Act.
Speaking from the U.S. Supreme Court the night the majority draft opinion came out, Lasry warned such a decision would lead to an almost complete abortion ban in Wisconsin.
Polling second in the Democratic Senate primary according to the Marquette poll, Lasry said he supports the proposal that guarantees "a pregnant person’s right to access an abortion — and the right of an abortion provider to deliver these abortion services — free from medically unnecessary restrictions that interfere with a patient’s individual choice or the provider-patient relationship."
State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, the only female top-tier Senate candidate, campaigned on codifying Roe before the leaked draft opinion made national headlines.
She "opposes abortion restrictions that endanger or punish women," Godlewski spokesperson Sarah Abel said in a statement. She has also expressed support for the Women's Health Protection Act.
After the leak, Godlewski expressed frustration at Democrats' fruitless attempts to codify Roe and ran an ad blasting Johnson for supporting reversing a case that guaranteed abortion protections nationwide for nearly 50 years.
"Sarah believes these personal and complicated decisions should be left to women and their doctors," Abel said.
Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson said he would vote to eliminate the filibuster and codify Roe if he were a U.S. senator after Politico broke the news about the leaked draft.
"A woman's right to choose is absolute. I trust women to make their own medical decisions," the Democratic Senate candidate said in a statement. "I have a 100% NARAL and Planned Parenthood voting record over three terms (2005-11) in the state Assembly — no one else in the field can match that."
Saying reproductive rights were on the ballot in November, Nelson also said he favors expanding the U.S. Supreme Court. Conservative justices currently hold a 6-3 majority on the court.
After the leak, Nelson said, "The Supreme Court has shown their hand. Senator Chuck Schumer must call a special session to blow up the filibuster and codify Roe now.”
Gov. Tony Evers
Soon after the Roe leak made national headlines, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers led a coalition of 17 governors across the country calling on Congress to pass Baldwin's Women’s Health Protection Act.
Still on the books but unenforceable since Roe, a resumption of the state ban would swamp Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ efforts to stand as a bulwark between the Republican-controlled Legislature and a full-fledged abortion ban.
Still, he said he "will fight every day" for access to abortion and reproductive rights as long as he is governor.
Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, whom the Marquette poll shows is the clear Republican frontrunner in the gubernatorial race, said she supports Wisconsin's law that bans abortion in almost every instance except for when the mother's life is at risk.
Asked during a Fox6 interview whether she would support additional exceptions for rape and incest, Kleefisch said she wouldn't because she doesn't "think it’s the baby’s fault how the baby is conceived."
She also said she hoped and prayed for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe. In the past, Kleefisch said she would support a bill banning abortions after doctors can detect a fetal heartbeat.
Kevin Nicholson debate
Management consultant and Republican gubernatorial candidate Kevin Nicholson has called himself "100% pro-life" and said he prays Roe gets overturned.
While he once supported abortion rights, Nicholson said in a survey that he would ban abortions in all cases.
"I’m honored to be the only candidate for governor endorsed by both Pro-Life Wisconsin and Wisconsin Family Action PAC," he said in a statement.
As governor, Nicholson said he would "(end) state funding of Planned Parenthood and (support) existing pregnancy resource centers around our state."
State Rep. Tim Ramthun, R-Campbellsport, who is running for governor, also has called himself "100% pro-life."
Ramthun and Nicholson are the only two gubernatorial candidates endorsed by Pro-Life Wisconsin, a group that opposes abortion ban exceptions for rape, incest or the life and health of the mother.
He also voted against a package of anti-abortion legislation because they contained exceptions for when abortion would be permitted.
"A child should never suffer for the sins of their mothers or fathers, and all life is sacred," he said in a statement.