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Kramer’s sudden fall from grace


Waukesha Freeman March 6, 2014 Page A6 Opinion
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Kramer’s sudden fall from grace

Can he pick up the pieces?

When the crash came for state Rep. Bill Kramer, it was sudden, loud and hard. The question is whether he can pick up the pieces of his political career and put it back together.

Kramer allegedly sexually harassed two different women on the same fundraising trip to Washington, D.C. One of them allegedly is a lobbyist and the other is allegedly a legislative staff person. Details are still sketchy, but he allegedly groped one woman and then later verbally abused another.

Not surprisingly, alcohol was possibly involved.

Yes, it’s a lot of “allegedlys” and if I forget one or two, assume that they’re there. (I imagine the Waukesha Freeman copy editor may insert one or two as well.) That’s because we don’t know much of anything. Before Kramer could issue a statement, he was checked into a treatment program. We do not know for how long, or even what kind of treatment.

We just know that there are very serious allegations and, rather than refute them, Kramer went into a treatment program.

The whole scandal was enough for Republican leadership, who started the move Friday night to remove Kramer as majority leader. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos issued a statement saying, “I expect that members of the Wisconsin State Legislature should always hold themselves to the highest standards and that’s why this matter will be dealt with swiftly.”

Most of us could have been spared the extemporaneous moralizing by Vos. He probably should have found someone else to make the statement.

Vos, who never wanted Kramer as the majority leader in the first place, now had just cause to remove him. It was merely a matter of scheduling the vote.

(As I was learning the news last Friday night, an alert came to my phone from Twitter. My Twitter account was suddenly being followed by “@repVos.” I’m sure it was coincidental.) But as tempting as it is to believe that Kramer was the victim of some effort to purge conservatives from leadership in Madison, the reality is Kramer brought it upon himself.

It’s not like Kramer wasn’t warned. During last September’s election for majority leader, state Rep. Chris Kapenga cautioned his colleagues against electing Kramer because of his behavior. He had to know his opponents would use his bad conduct against him.

Just a few weeks ago at a Republican event, Kramer told a couple of jokes about Woody Allen. I teased Kramer that I was taking notes for Kapenga. Too bad Kramer didn’t take the hint.

But others were less subtle. After the news broke, a lobbyist told me how he had to speak to Kramer about his behavior at another conference. Others are telling similar stories.

Some conservative activists and at least one radio personality are upset Republicans didn’t handle the scandal behind closed doors. It would have been impossible just due to the number of people who knew about it. But imagine the disaster if Republicans covered up the allegations and they were found out later.

Losing the position of majority leader may not be the only political price Kramer pays.

It wasn’t that long ago former state Rep. Scott Newcomer’s personal life became newspaper fodder. All it took was one challenger in the Republican primary to break the ice. Others entered the race, and Newcomer dropped out. Kapenga won the fourway election.

Kramer’s Assembly district, the 97th, is a relatively safe district. Local Republican potential candidates will see this as a tremendous opportunity. The winner could serve a long time, barring scandal, of course.

On the flip side, will Democrats try to recruit a real candidate to run on the off chance Kramer is the Republican nominee again? Waukesha Democrats have not been good candidate recruiters, but a woman candidate running against Kramer could be a headache for Republicans. Perhaps education activist Ruth Page Jones could be recruited for one more try.

In the movie “Blade Runner” Tyrell tells Roy, “The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long – and you have burned so very, very brightly.” Kramer rose to the height of leadership in the Assembly. Now we have to wait to see if he will burn so bright again.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

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