A GOP state lawmaker launched her campaign for secretary of state Wednesday, angling to unseat longtime Democratic incumbent Doug La Follette in 2022 and redefine the office’s responsibilities — including taking over some control of election administration in Wisconsin.
Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, announced her campaign at an event Thursday morning in Janesville. A member of the Legislature’s powerful state budget committee, Loudenbeck was first elected to the state Assembly in 2010.
Unlike many other states, the Wisconsin secretary of state has few official responsibilities under the state constitution. The office is tasked with some elements of general state record keeping, as well as serving on the state’s Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, which oversees some state investment funds, aid, loans and land holdings.
In an interview with WPR, Loudenbeck said the secretary of state's office should do more.
"No one likes to see someone that collects a state paycheck and isn’t actually doing anything that adds value to the state of Wisconsin," she said.
Loudenbeck said she will campaign on adding responsibilities to the office, including taking over some control of state election administration, as is the case for secretaries of state in several other states. She said the change could include the secretary of state "participating in some of the duties the (Wisconsin Elections Commission) conducts, or even just serving on the commission." The bipartisan commission of appointed members has taken sharp criticism from GOP state lawmakers in recent weeks following a nonpartisan audit of the 2020 election. Some elected clerks who oversee elections have also been criticized over their handling of the 2020 presidential election.
"I think there’s a lot of frustration from the public that there is no one directly accountable to the voters that is involved in the administration of elections," she said.
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Loudenbeck said if there is an opportunity for the secretary of state "to serve as a check" on the elections commission, it should be explored.
"I think those are good conversations to have, but they’re not going to happen with Doug La Follette in that office," she said.
La Follette, 81, has been serving as secretary of state continuously since 1983. Prior to that, he served a term in the office from 1975-79. He has maintained the seat for decades despite several challenges from Republicans and Democratic primary opponents alike. He won reelection in 2018 with 53 percent of the vote. He has not yet filed for reelection.
Aside from Loudenbeck, four others have filed to run for the office in 2022. Those include GOP candidate Jay Schroeder, whose bid for the seat won 47 percent of the vote in 2018. In his campaign announcement earlier this month, Schroeder also advocated for the office to take over control of elections in Wisconsin. The other candidates are Republican Dmitry Becker, Republican Daniel Schmidtka and Libertarian Neil Harmon.
Loudenbeck said previous attempts to unseat La Follette haven’t been successful because the message of reforming the office "hasn’t gotten through" in previous elections.
"In Republican years, in Democrat years, it’s just been sort of this below-the-radar race, and I want to raise the profile of this office in this election cycle and moving forward," she said.
The partisan primary for the race will be held in August.