Political pressure, fallout over unexpected vacancy on state elections commission

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- We're now learning more about the political pressure a state elections commissioner expressed after abruptly resigning from his position Wednesday.

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson expressed his concerns about Dean Knudson, a Republican, to Assembly Speaker Robin, that he believed Knudson was losing support from the party.

In a statement, Johnson’s spokeswoman Alex Henning said he talked to Vos to “express his belief that Dean Knudson had lost the confidence of the grassroots Republicans in representing their interests on the Wisconsin Elections Commission."

Henning said Johnson never asked Knudson to step down.

It comes after Knudson dropped a political bombshell announcing his resignation, saying he felt pressured by Republicans for speaking the truth about the 2020 election and that Joe Biden won fair and square.

"It's been made clear to me that from the highest levels of the Republican Party in Wisconsin, that there was a deep desire that I not be chair," Knudson said. "And that's fine."

Knudson added, “The painful truth is President Trump lost the election in 2020."

Knudson has been an outspoken critic against members of his own party who believe there was widespread fraud and the election was stolen from Trump.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos will be responsible for appointing a new commissioner. It's a decision Vos said he expects to make before WEC’s next meeting on June 10.

Vos said he prefers to pick someone with a legal background and wants them to focus on the future instead of overturning the 2020 election -- a belief Knudson was criticized for.

"I don't want to go back and relitigate 2020," said Vos. "That would not be my intention to find someone who's obsessed with that."

Democrats and Republicans were shocked by Knudson's decision. Governor Tony Evers said he was disappointed that political pressure played a role.

"Apparently if you disagree with the last election, you're toast," Evers said. "It's somewhat understandable because essentially, he's been thrown out of the party."

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