The capitol rotunda was adorned with American flags and red white and blue banners today, as Tony Evers was officially sworn in as Governor of Wisconsin.
With performances by the Neenah Community Band, Milwaukee Children’s Choir, the Indian Community School, and others, around 200 people gathered in the rotunda to see how Governor Evers will spend his next four years leading the state.
Evers won re-election last fall, beating out his Republican challenger Tim Michels by around 90,000 votes.
After around an hour of music, ending with the singing of the National Anthem and the pledge of allegiance, emcee of the event, Shannon Hosley, President of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians, kicked off the event.
Hosley started by acknowledging the many state leaders in attendance, including former Governors Tommy Thompson, Scott McCallum, Jim Doyle, and Martin Schrieber, but legislative leadership: Republicans Vos and LeMahieu, and Democrats Neubauer and Agard. The new crop of legislators elected in November were sworn in later today at a separate ceremony.
The first to be sworn in was new Republican State Treasurer John Leiber. Leiber will be serving his first term as treasurer, having beaten out Democratic candidate Aaron Richardson for the seat in November.
“We need to work together in this divided government to accomplish something, and I look forward to getting things done,” Leiber says. “I ran on a platform of small government, focusing on the duties of this office, (and) I hope to make a positive difference in this state over my term. I plan to keep the office accessible to people, address financial concerns, and educate of financial responsibility, including the state’s role with your tax dollars.”
Next to be sworn in was Secretary of State Doug La Follette, continuing to serve in the seat he’s held for over 40 years. The usually sleepy office saw a tight race in November, as Republican candidate Amy Loudenbeck, along with top GOP leaders, pushed for the position to have control over how elections are run in Wisconsin. La Follette won reelection by just over 7,000 votes, and spent his speech asking the legislature for additional help.
“I know that, despite the hiccups in the past, we can work together to continue to serve the people of Wisconsin,” La Follette says. “Allocating the resources and funding where they are most needed to ensure the continued success of every agency and every citizen of our great state. I’m hoping that the legislature will adopt the Governor’s recommendation that we be given two additional staff to keep up with the demand for service, otherwise we cannot provide that for people.”
The next to be sworn in was Attorney General Josh Kaul, who defeated Republican candidate Eric Toney by around 35,000 votes, on a platform of protecting reproductive rights in Wisconsin. After Roe v Wade was overturned last year, and Wisconsin reverted to the 18th-century abortion ban, Kaul filed a lawsuit looking to overturn the ban.
After taking the oath of office surrounded by his family, Kaul called on state leaders to work together to keep Wisconsin safe.
“Over the course of our history, Wisconsin has been a leader,” Kaul says. “It is time for us to lead the way again. In the shadow of a pandemic and an insurrection, we can light a new path. We can reject divide-and-conquer politics and commit to finding common ground for the common good of Wisconsinites.”
Then came newly elected Lieutenant Governor Sara Rodriguez, who says that she will apply what she learned as a healthcare worker to the health of the state.
“As a clinician, I know that the medicine we give you, the procedures we perform on you, is such a tiny fraction of how healthy we are,” Rodriguez says. “It is about where we live, the air we breath, the water we drink, and if we have a good paying job to put food on the table and to actually pay for those medications.”
Finally, Governor Tony Evers stood before state Supreme Court Chief Justice Annette Zeigler, to be sworn into his second term leading Wisconsin. Before he spoke on the future of Wisconsin, Evers was introduced by his granddaughter Tessa Schoenecker. Schoenecker, who voted absentee for her grandfather in November while attending classes in Minnesota, pressed on the importance of people leading Wisconsin, and not some political machine.
“Our leaders work for us, and it is our responsibility to remember that they are just people, and make our voices heard on the issues that are important to us,” Schoenecker says. “ For most people, it’s a little harder than just texting your grandpa, but it’s necessary nonetheless. I am so hopeful for the future of our state, and so excited for the possibilities of what we could achieve together.”
As Governor Evers took the podium to speak, he echoed the sentiment of everyone who spoke today, focusing on unity between the Democratic Governor’s office and the Republican-led legislature.
“Not one of us alone can undo the damage done to our democracy,” Evers says. “Not one of us alone can mend the seams of this fraying fabric. Not one of us alone can restore trust in our system that has served our country for centuries. But together, we can, and together, we will.”
Late last month, Evers met with top GOP leaders for the first time in years, as the Associated Press reports that both sides are talking about trying to work together in the upcoming legislative session.
During his speech, Evers also expressed optimism toward the enthusiasm of young voters, especially when it comes to climate change.
“You heard it from my granddaughter, because they believe as I do that science is real, that climate change is real, and they are demanding that we stop pretending that we can’t create good paying jobs and create sustainable infrastructure while conserving our natural resources, because they deserve a future where we can do both.”
With his inauguration, Governor Evers will now get to work putting together the state’s biennial budget. Evers’ draft budget will be released within the coming weeks, and it will then head to the Republican-led legislature, who will then alter and eventually approve the budget for the next two years.
Photo courtesy: Nate Wegehaupt / WORT News Team