Calls of 'shame' as Wisconsin Republicans aim to curb incoming Democrats' power

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) – Protesters chanting “Shame!” disrupted a tree-lighting ceremony and a legislative session at the Wisconsin state capitol on Tuesday as Republican lawmakers moved toward a vote on bills to weaken the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general.

Wisconsin’s lame-duck Republican-majority legislature called a rare post-election session this week to consider the proposals before Governor-elect Tony Evers takes office in January and can exercise his veto power.

Democrats say the moves undercut the results of Nov. 6 elections, when their party broke years of total Republican control of state government in Wisconsin.

A similar effort is underway in Michigan, where the Republican-controlled legislature is weighing new laws that would hamstring incoming Democrats.

Lawmakers discussed the legislation behind closed doors for nearly four hours on Tuesday evening before coming back into session at about 9:30 p.m. local time. Republicans are expected to pass the legislation later on Tuesday or early on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, dozens of protesters disrupted a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony presided over by Republican Governor Scott Walker, drowning out a high school choir and prompting Walker to tweet, “I can handle the shouts but leave the kids alone.”

Soon after the state Senate took the floor in the afternoon, President Roger Roth ordered the gallery cleared of onlookers after catcalls from the public, drawing yells from Democratic lawmakers and jeers from protesters. Roth later allowed people to return after admonishing them to remain silent.

The proposals being considered would give the state legislature, which will remain in Republican hands, the power to intervene in litigation involving the state, a role normally reserved for the attorney general, and curtail the governor’s ability to issue rules that codify state laws.

The bills would also allow legislators, rather than the attorney general, to decide whether to withdraw the state from lawsuits. That measure is aimed at preventing Evers and the incoming attorney general, Josh Kaul, from following through on campaign promises to end Wisconsin’s challenge to the federal Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.

In Michigan, Republicans want to end the secretary of state’s oversight of campaign finance laws and sidestep the attorney general in litigation.

The Democratic leader in the Senate, Jennifer Shilling, accused Republicans of “stealing” power from Evers, who has threatened legal action.

Republicans say the moves are aimed at keeping a proper balance between the legislative and executive branches.

The efforts are reminiscent of lame-duck maneuvers that North Carolina Republicans took in 2016 to strip the incoming Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, of the power to appoint a majority of members to a state election-oversight board.

A court later blocked the move as unconstitutional.

This year, Republicans in North Carolina are rushing to pass a new voter identification law before they lose their veto-proof majority in January.

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Republican declares Georgia governor win, Democrat does not concede

(Reuters) – Republican Brian Kemp’s campaign said on Wednesday he had won Georgia’s high-profile governor’s race, but Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams vowed not to concede until all ballots were counted.

“Simply put, it is mathematically impossible for Stacey Abrams to win or force a run-off election,” Kemp spokesman Cody Hall said in a statement Wednesday evening. “Brian Kemp will now begin his transition as governor-elect of Georgia.”

Abrams, 44, is trying to become the first black woman elected governor of a U.S. state. Unofficial results from Tuesday’s election showed Kemp leading by more than 60,000 votes and just over the 50 percent threshold he needs to avoid a runoff under Georgia state law.

Abrams’ campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo said there were thousands more mail, provisional and absentee ballots, however, still to be tallied.

The Democratic campaign cited an “incredible amount of irregularities” on Election Day, including rejected ballots and broken voting machines, and said it would consider all options including litigation to ensure a fair election.

The Georgia contest was among three dozen governor elections on Tuesday.

In some states, the races were seen as an early test of the parties’ strength ahead of the 2020 presidential race. Democrats seized seven Republican-held governorships, including in several states that helped deliver Republican President Donald Trump’s surprise win in 2016, without suffering any losses.

But Republicans triumphed in Florida and Ohio, both swing states that could play an outsized role in 2020.

In Florida, Democrat Andrew Gillum lost his attempt to become the state’s first black governor, suffering a narrow defeat to Republican Ron DeSantis in a racially charged contest.

Republicans also scored a major victory in Ohio’s governor race, where Mike DeWine, the state attorney general, defeated Democrat Richard Cordray.

But in Wisconsin, Democrat Tony Evers appeared to pull off a narrow win to deny Republican incumbent Scott Walker a third term.

Democrats also won gubernatorial races in three other states – Michigan, Pennsylvania and Kansas – that supported Trump in 2016.

In Michigan, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer turned back Republican Bill Schuette, while in Kansas, Democrat Laura Kelly defeated Kris Kobach, a staunch Trump ally.

Democratic candidates also triumphed in Illinois, Maine, New Mexico and Nevada, where Republicans had held the governorships.


The races in Florida and Georgia were seen as a test of whether liberal candidates could prevail in Southern states, where centrist Democrats have repeatedly lost, by appealing to a coalition of young and minority voters.

Both DeSantis and Kemp had strong support from Trump, who traveled to their states in the closing days of the campaigns to energize Republicans at “Make America Great Again” rallies. Democratic former President Barack Obama swooped in to boost the Democrats.

Kemp, 55, oversees elections in his current role as secretary of state, a potential conflict of interest that drew repeated criticism from Democrats during the campaign. He refused to step down from his position and denied Democratic accusations that he used his office to suppress minority voters.

The fight for state power received less attention than the battle for control of the U.S. Congress but could have a major impact on issues such as congressional redistricting and healthcare.

Governors and hundreds of legislators elected this year will be in office when each state redraws congressional districts after the 2020 Census.

Going into Tuesday, Republicans controlled 33 governors’ mansions and two-thirds of state legislative chambers.

Democrats, playing catch-up after a net loss of 13 governorships and more than 900 state legislative seats during the eight-year Obama administration, fielded their largest slate of legislative candidates in more than three decades.

The party flipped six legislative chambers on Tuesday and now has complete control of state government in Colorado, New York, Illinois, Maine and New Mexico.

Full election coverage: here

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