Steven Walters
The State of Politics

Where Are Act 10 Players Today?

Governor and three-fourths of legislators engaged in 2011 battle over law crushing public unions have moved on.

By - Mar 1st, 2021 12:05 pm
Protestors in front of the Wisconsin State Capitol on March 12, 2011, a day after Gov. Scott Walker signed Act 10. Photo by Richard Hurd. (CC BY 2.0)

Protestors in front of the Wisconsin State Capitol on March 12, 2011, a day after Gov. Scott Walker signed Act 10. Photo by Richard Hurd. (CC BY 2.0)

Three out of every four lawmakers who went through the historical Act 10 fight exactly one decade ago are no longer in the Legislature. So, where are many of those elected officials now?

Two-term Republican Gov. Scott Walker, defeated in 2018 by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, pushed Act 10 through the Legislature to abolish collective bargaining for most public employees and to make them pay more for health care and pensions. Walker is now president of the Washington-based Young America’s Foundation, which takes a conservative message to students and young adults. He spoke over the weekend at the Conservative PAC convention.

In the Senate, 18 Republican senators voted for Act 10. Nine of them faced recall elections for that vote.

Of the top four Republican leaders in 2011 – Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, Assistant Majority Leader Glenn Grothman, Senate President Mike Ellis and Joint Finance Co-chair Alberta Darling – only Darling is still a senator.

Fitzgerald and Grothman are now members of Congress. Fitzgerald represents the Fifth District in the U.S. House; Grothman, the Sixth District.

Ellis retired in 2014 and died four years later.

Only two other Republican senators who voted for Act 10 – Robert Cowles and Van Wanggaard – are still senators. Wanggaard was recalled in 2012, but won the seat back in 2014.

Two GOP senators who voted for Act 10 – Joe Leibham and Neal Kedzie – are lobbyists. Leibham works for a law firm; Kedzie is president of the Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association. Another, Leah Vukmir, is vice president for state affairs of the National Taxpayers Union.

The only Republican senator to vote against Act 10, former Majority Leader Dale Schultz, retired in 2014.

Of the 14 Senate Democrats who fled to Illinois to try and block a Senate vote on Act 10, five are still in the Senate: Tim Carpenter, Lena Taylor, Chris Larson, Jon Erpenbach and Robert Wirch.

Six Senate Democrats — then-Minority Leader Mark Miller, Fred Risser, Tim Cullen, Dave Hansen, Jim Holperin and Bob Jauch — have retired.

Former Sen. Spencer Coggs is Milwaukee’s city treasurer. Kathleen Vinehout lost in the 2018 Democratic primary for governor. Julie Lassa now lobbies for Sentry Insurance.

These were the six top Assembly Republican leaders in 2011: Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, Speaker Pro Tem Bill Kramer, Majority Leader Scott Suder, Assistant Majority Leader Dan Knodl, Caucus Chair Joan Ballweg and Joint Finance Cochair Robin Vos.

Only Vos and Knodl still serve in the Assembly; Vos became the longest-serving Assembly speaker in Wisconsin history last month. Ballweg moved from the Assembly to the Senate this year.

Jeff Fitzgerald is a lobbyist whose clients include Alliant Energy, Consumer Data Industry Assn., DoorDash Inc., HNTB Corp., SmileDirectClub, Wisconsin Association of Health Plans, Wisconsin Genetic Counselors Association and the Wisconsin Wine and Spirit Institute.

President of the Wisconsin Paper Council, Suder is also a lobbyist.

Kramer left the Assembly in disgrace after being accused of groping a female aide.

Another Assembly Republican, Joel Kleefisch, is also a lobbyist.
Ballweg and 11 other Assembly Republicans moved to the Senate: Andre Jacque, Senate President Chris Kapenga, Steve Nass, Dale Kooyenga, Howard Marklein, Kathy Bernier, David Craig, Jerry Petrowski, Roger Roth, Tom Tiffany and Paul Farrow.

Tiffany was elected as 7th District member of the U.S. House last year. Farrow was elected Waukesha County executive in 2015.

Only 14 of the 53 Assembly Republicans who voted for Act 10 are still in the Assembly. One of four Assembly Republicans who voted against it – Rep. Travis Tranel – is still a member. Another Republican who voted against it, Dean Kaufert, is mayor of Neenah.

None of the five leaders of Assembly Democrats then — Minority Leader Peter Barca and Reps. Donna Seidel, Kelda Helen Roys, Fred Clark and Penny Bernard-Schaber — still serve in that house.

Barca is secretary of the state Department of Revenue; Roys is a state senator. Clark lobbies for Wisconsin’s Green Fire conservation group.

Five Democrats who voted against Act 10 are still in the Assembly: Minority Leader Gordon Hintz and Reps. Christine Sinicki, Gary Hebl, Nick Milroy and Sondy Pope.

Among Assembly Democrats who opposed Act 10, two moved up politically: Mark Pocan represents the 2nd Congressional District; State Sen. Janis Ringhand represents Beloit and Janesville.

Four Assembly Democrats from the Act 10 fight still hold elective office: Jon Richards is a Milwaukee County judge, JoCasta Zamarripa is a Milwaukee Common Council member, Louis Molepske is the Portage County district attorney, and Cory Mason is Racine’s mayor.

But the memories of that epic battle still remain.

Steven Walters has covered the Capitol since 1988. Contact him at

More about the ACT 10

Read more about ACT 10 here

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