Senate Leader Asks Gov. Tony Evers To Withdraw Agriculture Secretary Nomination

Move Comes After Clashes Between GOP Lawmakers And Sec. Brad Pfaff

Wisconsin state Capitol
Justin Kern (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The leader of the state Senate has asked Gov. Tony Evers to withdraw his pick to lead the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Friday there aren’t enough votes to confirm agriculture Secretary Brad Pfaff. Pfaff’s confirmation is scheduled to go before the full Senate on Tuesday.

If the secretary isn’t confirmed, he’ll be fired from his job.

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The move to fire an acting administration official is an incredibly unusual one in state government. According to the Senate chief clerk, no state secretary has been fired by the Senate since at least 1997, as far as the office’s electronic records go back.

Pfaff has clashed with GOP lawmakers since his appointment, particularly over a delay in funding for a suicide prevention program for farmers. Republicans accused the secretary of politicizing the issue.

Evers says he will not withdraw Pfaff’s nomination.

“It is astonishing that, in the middle of a dairy crisis and trade war, Republicans want to create even more uncertainty and instability by firing the leader of the agency charged with fighting for Wisconsin’s farmers and rural communities,” Evers said in a prepared statement.

Before his nomination, Pfaff served as the deputy chief of staff to Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Ron Kind. Previously, he worked as executive director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency under the Obama administration.

Pfaff has said his upbringing in a family of farmers in La Crosse County informs his work as agriculture secretary.

Only five of the governor’s Cabinet members have been confirmed since he took office in January. Those are Department of Administration Secretary Joel Brennan; Corrections Secretary Kevin Carr; Revenue Secretary Peter Barca; Veterans Affairs Secretary Mary Kolar; and Department of Financial Institutions Secretary Kathy Blumenfeld.

The remaining 11 Cabinet members can still continue in their jobs without confirmation unless the Senate votes to fire them.

Fitzgerald has said some may never be voted on.