2021 Wisconsin politics: Pandemic feuds, election reviews and resignations

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- It was another long and animated year at the state capitol as we reflect on 2021.

From disagreements on how to handle the pandemic to reviews of the 2020 presidential election, 2021 turned out to be another busy and divided political year.

Wisconsin politics once again dominated national headlines which began in January when Republicans launched efforts to repeal Gov. Tony Evers statewide mask mandate.

In March, the order was stuck down by the State Supreme Court which ruled Evers exceeded his executive powers when issuing back-to-back mask mandates.

Feuds over the pandemic will no doubt continue in 2022 and political experts predict those debates could weigh in Republican's favor since Gov. Evers is seeking a second term. The high court's ruling restricts Evers authority to implement COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

"Governor Evers is trying to do his best, but it's really the fault of the Republican legislature -- that doesn't fit on a bumper sticker so I think that's one of the advantages Republicans have," said Mordecai Lee, Professor Emeritus at UW-Milwaukee.

Election Reviews

Another highlight of the year was when the Republican taxpayer funded review of the 2020 election was launched by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. In August, Vos hired Michael Gableman, retired Supreme Court Justice, to led the investigation with a $676,000 taxpayer budget.

The move came after former President Donald Trump called out top Republicans for not doing enough to investigate election results.

Democrats continue to criticize the probe calling it outrageous and a waste of taxpayer funds after numerous reviews found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

The probe will continue into the new year but it remains to be seen when Gableman will wrap it up.

Resignations

A handful of lawmakers also decided to not run for reelect in 2021.

U.S. Congressman Ron Kind (D - La Crosse) announced he will retire after 13 terms in office which is nearly 25 years in the House.

Kind's departure comes after he faced a closer-than-expected victory in 2020 against his Republican opponent Derrick Van Orden.

The rural district has become competitive over the last few years. Democrats are hoping to retain the seat as they attempt to hang on their majority in 2022.

  • Tom Barrett packed his bag to serve as Ambassador to Luxembourg setting up a new era to lead the City of Milwaukee.
  • State Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) stepped down as Assembly Minority Leader to spend more time with his family and focus on the needs of his district. Rep. Greta Neubauer (D-Racine) was elected to become the next Assembly Democratic leader.
  • State Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-West Point) won't seek reelection after severing more than two decades in office.
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