State Rep. Bob Gannon, an outspoken West Bend Republican in his second term, has died.
Gannon, 58, died on Tuesday of natural causes, according to an email sent by the Assembly Chief Clerk to lawmakers.
"The Assembly family has lost an outspoken conservative who made the chamber and our caucus a livelier place. Bob will be remembered for his unwavering passion and unapologetic approach to politics," Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said in a statement. "I’m especially proud of the work that he was doing as the chair of the new Assembly committee, the Committee on Urban Revitalization. He was dedicated to serving his constituents well and tackling important issues like poverty in Wisconsin."
First elected in 2014, Gannon wasn't shy about arguing for tough-on-crime policies, with much of his energy focused on the city of Milwaukee. He defended the state Department of Corrections for placing children in solitary confinement at the state's youth prison, and objected to referring to the inmates as children at all, arguing they were "some of the roughest, nastiest, out-of-control men and women in the state of Wisconsin."
He had recently been named chairman of the Assembly Committee on Urban Revitalization, and told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in February he intended to prove wrong his critics who pegged him as a "racist," "joker" and "Milwaukee hater."
His legislative tenure was marked by bombastic press releases and an outburst on the Assembly floor during which he flipped off then-Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha. The argument came after several Milwaukee Democrats accused him of making racially charged comments.
While Gannon apologized for the gesture, he followed up by asking for an apology from Barca and Vos for "damage to (his) reputation."
Gannon was married with two children. He owned an insurance agency, a hotel and rental property. He was a former president of the West Bend Sunrise Rotary, the West Bend Chamber of Commerce, Family Promise of Washington County, the West Bend Jaycees and the Washington County Youth Hockey Association, and a former vice president of West Bend Economic Development Corporation.
He attended Still Waters United Methodist Church and was a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association.
"I am saddened to learn of the passing of our colleague, Bob Gannon," said Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh. "Bob was a spirited public servant who held strong convictions and believed in what he was doing on behalf of his constituents. On behalf of the Assembly Democratic Caucus, I want to send my thoughts and prayers to his family, loved ones and staff during this incredibly difficult time."