Controversy Brewing Over
Tourism Secretary's Resignation
Republicans have jumped at the another opportunity to point fingers after Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle accepted the resignation of his Department of Tourism Secretary.
Gov. Doyle announced Tuesday, April 15, 2003 that Kevin Shibilski (D-Stevens Point) handed in his resignation April 14th. Doyle stated that he accepted Shibilski's regisnation, which is effective May 1st. The governor says he expects to be announcing a replacement soon.
Former 24th District State Senator Kevin Shibilski made an unsuccessful run for Lt. Governor in the primary election that led up to Doyle winning the Governor's seat. After Doyle won the election he named Shibilski Secretary of the Department of Tourism to replace Moose Speros. Speros had promoted tourism heavily while serving under Republican Governors Tommy Thompson and Scott McCallum.
"Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve as a member of your cabinet", Shibilski stated in his resignation letter to Doyle. Shibilski says his job as Tourism Secretary involved a great deal of travel, which took time away from his family. Shibilski concludes that his "personal and professional interests lie elsewhere."
When Shibilski accepted the job of Tourism Secretary it triggered a primary race for Shibilski's 24th Senate District seat in Central Wisconsin. It was thought by many that the logical choice to replace Shibilski in the Senate role would be Assembly Representative Julie Lassa (D-Plover). That's why citizens of the area found it hard to understand when Shibilski actively supported Alex Paul (D-Wisconsin Rapids) instead. Lassa won the primary by a wide margin, even after Doyle endorsed her opponent in an unusual pre-primary move.
Lassa is being challenged for the 24th Senate seat by Republican Donna Rozar of Marshfield. Rozar ran unsuccessfully against Shibilski several years ago when the seat was vacated by Senator Dave Helbach (Dem) when Helbach resigned to work in the private sector. Rozar also ran unsuccessfully against longtime 70th Assembly District Representative Don Hasenohrl (D-Pittsville).
Others who are running for the Senate Seat Shibilski gave up for the Department of Tourism posta are Jo Seiser and Jesse Higgins. Both candidates are from Stevens Point. Seiser is running on the Wisconsin Green Party ticket. Higgins is an Independent.
Republican Party of Wisconsin Executive Director Darrin Schmitz issued the following statement following the announcement that Doyle accepted Shibilski's resignation as Tourism chief:
“Doyle’s ties to this messy affair are too strong to ignore," Schmitz says. "Alex Paul and his family were major contributors to Doyle’s campaign, handing $56,100 directly to Doyle and dropping another $36,600 in soft money into the state and national Democrat party coffers," Schmitz alleges.
The Wisconsin GOP's Executive Director charges that in exchange, Doyle took the extraordinarily rare step of endorsing Paul in the 24th state Senate district primary to replace Kevin Shibilski. "Doyle did so despite strong opposition to such a move from local Democrat party leaders," Schmitz asserts.
“Why did Doyle feel compelled to meddle in this race? Follow the money," Schmitz continues. "Doyle returned a favor to a big-money campaign contributor. Alex Paul paid, and James E. Doyle played, but he got burned and now is using Kevin Shilbilski as his scapegoat," Schmitz contends.
Doyle’s gubernatorial campaign manager, Bill Christofferson, worked on Alex Paul’s campaign and directed Shibilski’s media campaign in his failed effort to become lieutenant governor.
Republican's Executive Director is asking, “What did James E. Doyle know about all this and when did he know it? Did Doyle promise Shibilski a job if elected? And did they use that information to help Alex Paul get a head start on the campaign, and, co-ordinate an effort to scare off potential candidate Julie Lassa?"
Schmitz suggests Shibilski's resignation was accepted becauseGov. Doyle was feeling the pressure to step as far away from what Schmitz calls "this sleazy mess" as possible.
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