Here we are again, with the second edition of our 50-state tour of the worst politicians in America.
A reminder: Every two weeks, we’re going to highlight a different state, so that by the end, you’ll have a full panorama of the trash pile that is American democracy from coast to coast. If you have ideas for bad politicians we should be focusing on, you can send us names by filling out our Google form—and you can submit the form as many times as you want, so don’t worry about narrowing down your list.
Two weeks ago, we brought you the biggest scumbags in Texas. This time, we’re headed up north to report on the worst politicians in Wisconsin—home of dairy, something called a Milwaukee Brewer, Katherine, and some of the absolute biggest monsters you will find anywhere in the United States. As ever, we’re veering away from the baddies you already know about, like Ron Johnson. Here are some of the more unheralded villains from the Badger State. Let’s get to it!
Kenosha Co. Sheriff David Beth (R)
David Beth is Kenosha County’s longest-serving sheriff. He’s also a racist bigot. Last year, he fielded questions about the competence of his deputies, who failed to immediately arrest Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse despite passing him just after he shot and killed two people at a protest for the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Though Beth said he rejected suggestions that he “deputize” armed vigilantes like Rittenhouse to help “assist” law enforcement during the protests, he also took no issue with his deputies handing vigilantes water on the street, nor other law enforcement “thanking them” for their assistance.
But the true shocker (or is it, really?) of Beth’s tenure as sheriff appears to be an unabashedly racist, hateful rant he went on in January 2018 after the arrest of five people, at least four of them Black, for shoplifting. Among many, many things, Beth called them a cancer on society, and trash, and said they needed to be “warehoused” and never allowed to get multiple people pregnant. (An incomplete transcript of his comments can be found here.)
Last September, Beth endorsed Donald Trump.
Rep. Glenn Grothman (R)
No list of Wisconsin’s biggest baddies would be complete without Grothman. (Just look at his name!)
I was first introduced to Grothman when he was a Wisconsin state senator vociferously defending the law that stripped the state’s public-sector unions of their collective bargaining rights. But he also made waves for being anti-anything-remotely-good: He supported then-Gov. Scott Walker repealing the Equal Pay Act, saying “money is more important for men.” He hates the weekend, once calling a state law mandating one day of rest per week “goofy.” In arguing against a state sex-ed proposal, he floated banning teachers from acknowledging LGBTQ people, lest their “agenda” to turn kids gay succeed.
Grothman has also been a dial-a-quote guy who will talk about basically anything long before we’d ever heard the phrase “President Donald J. Trump.” (To that end: He also hates Kwanzaa and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day being a federal holiday but he DOES like raw milk!)He dropped off my radar for a while after being elected to Congress in 2014, but don’t think getting to Congress made him any less of an arch-conservative. In October 2020, Axios crunched the numbers and assigned Grothman a “Trump Loyalty Index” rating of 93, higher than any Republican in Congress. Just last month, during a floor debate over the stimulus bill, Grothman again made headlines for saying Black Lives Matter “doesn’t like the old-fashioned family.” Get rid of him!!!
Wisconsin GOP Chair Andrew Hitt
Andrew Hitt is the chairman of the Wisconsin GOP, which, given the state’s prominence in the 2016 and 2020 elections, means he is able to wield a large amount of power and influence over national politics. What has he done with this? Let’s check in. In 2020, he repeatedly backed the theory that Trump won the election, and said that his state had “a continual disregard for basic election protections” (it didn’t, the vote was fine). Hitt also outright admitted to Fox News that his job in Wisconsin was to find any kind of systemic case that could overturn the election. Didn’t work! But never fear, Hitt is bouncing back: largely by hopping on the Republican sore-loser bandwagon of trying to find new and inventive ways to do voter suppression under the guise of “election reform.” We can only hope he’ll be as incompetent as that as he was at delivering his state for Donald Trump.
State Rep. Cody Horlacher (R)
Horlacher has a fairly short resume compared to others on this list, but don’t sell him short: he’s managed to do a lot of terrible things in his 34 years on this planet. And if his track record is any indication, he’s just getting started.
Over the last year, Horlacher has seemingly spent every waking hour waging an anti-mask war against Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’ statewide mask mandate, or in his words, “Dictator Evers’ Mask Decree.” He even rolled out plans to reopen the state as early as April of last year.
And in October—as COVID numbers in Wisconsin were nearing their peak—he was among a group of GOP lawmakers who attended an indoor mass hosted by an anti-abortion group. Meanwhile, Horlacher received a PPP loan totalling about $25,000 to help keep two jobs at his law firm.
If all that wasn’t enough, the representative was also among 15 state Republicans who sent a letter to former VP Mike Pence asking him not to certify election results, and he’s a cancel culture guy. While that’s a problem that doesn’t actually exist, we’ll proudly use our First Amendment rights here to say that Rep. Cody Horlacher is in fact one of the worst politicians in Wisconsin, and in the entire U.S. of A.
State Senate Pres. Chris Kapenga (R)
If someone asked a team of scientists to create the quintessential pissant Wisconsin Republican in a lab, odds are whatever they might come up with would be pretty close to State Senate President Chris Kapenga — a joyless narc who thinks there simply isn’t enough cash flowing into in the electoral system, since “the more money in politics, the better.” During the “race to be the most racist” portion of the 2016 GOP presidential primary, Kapenga publicly endorsed then-candidate Ben Carson’s position that America shouldn’t “put a Muslim in charge of this nation,” and has since busied himself with typical Republican bullshit like insisting that masks don’t protect against COVID-19, and saying that Wisconsin didn’t need emergency field hospitals while ICUs were maxing out on coronavirus patients. Kapenga is also a big Tesla guy, having long supported efforts to make it easier to sell the beep boop cars in his state. That’s all fine and good, and probably has nothing at all to do with the fact that he just so happens to own a company that sells salvaged Teslas and their parts.
State Reps. Jeff Murnau and David Steffen (R)
Name a more moronic duo—I’ll wait. These dummies helped lead the charge to overturn the election results in Wisconsin and the other states that allowed Joe Biden to clinch the White House. And they did a terrible job: Their lawsuit, apparently rife with errors and filed in the wrong court, was met with a bruising reply from the judge. “In addition to being filed on behalf of Plaintiffs without standing and (at least as to the state Defendants) in the wrong court and with no effort to even serve their adversaries, the suit rests on a fundamental and obvious misreading of the Constitution,” U.S. District Judge James Boasberg of Washington, D.C., wrote in his rejection. They can’t even bring a nuisance lawsuit right! Wouldn’t you know it: the day after the Capitol insurrection, Mursau and Steffen asked to drop their suit. And just like so many of their national Republican colleagues, the cognitive dissonance at the heart of the whole election subversion gambit was equally true for them: Somehow the same election that fraudulently led to Joe Biden winning also led to their own re-election. Funny how “election fraud” works.
Supreme Court Justices Patience Roggensack and Annette Ziegler
Here’s a fun timeline for you: last year, Roggensack was serving as chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and Ziegler was an associate justice. During that time, both women voted with their conservative colleagues to force state elections to take place in person right in the middle of the COVID pandemic—after they had both conveniently already voted absentee. Weeks later, Roggensack declared that a local COVID outbreak was probably due to the presence of meatpacking workers and not “regular folks.” Charming! At the end of the year, both justices voted (unsuccessfully) to let one of Donald Trump’s frivolous election challenges go forward. In March of this year, both voted to overturn the state’s mask mandate. Next week, Roggensack will step down from her chief justice role. Her replacement? Ziegler. Good luck, Wisconsin.
House Speaker Robin Vos (R)
Aside from Scott Walker, Robin Vos might be the biggest villain in Wisconsin over the past ten years. He might even be the worst legislative leader in any state government in the country over the same period.
First elected in 2004 and later serving as one of the co-chairs for the Wisconsin Assembly’s budget committee, Vos played a key role in passing Wisconsin’s austerity budgets, he vocally supported the Act 10 law that crushed Wisconsin’s public sector unions, and spearheaded the effort to enact one of the country’s strictest voter ID laws. After being elected speaker in 2012, Vos—enjoying the built-in advantage Wisconsin Republicans drew themselves with one of the country’s most obvious gerrymanders—continued the difficult work of destroying public education and taking a bunch of cool trips on the public’s dime. And in the more than two years since Democrat Tony Evers succeeded Walker, Vos has a newfound love for curbing executive power, particularly as it relates to the pandemic.
Vos is an ALEC hack who has played a key role in killing Wisconsin’s reputation for relatively progressive politics and turning it into a reactionary playground. The only useful thing he’s ever done is be a receptacle for beer.