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Tony Evers to consider Republicans for Cabinet positions

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Tony Evers 2

Gov.-elect Tony Evers. 

Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers said he will consider appointing Republicans to his Cabinet and retaining Walker appointees as he works to assemble his administration.

“Anything is open. Whether they’re Republicans, Democrats, whatever, we have to have diversity, we have to have good, smart people, we have to have the best and the brightest,” Evers told reporters at a stop at American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison.

Evers emphasized he’s looking for Cabinet appointees who have expertise in their respective fields as he readies himself to take over as the state’s top administrator just more than a month from now.

His comments provide a clue as to whether he, as the first Democratic governor since 2011, will seek to work with GOP legislators after a close election that still leaves them with majorities in the state Assembly and Senate.

The governor-elect’s comments also come as Republicans have made an effort to retain Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett, who has served in that role since 2011. Evers said Klett “is one of many” candidates he’ll consider.

“Obviously she’s done a good job, as have other Walker appointees,” Evers added.

He also said he’s open to considering appointing Senate education committee chairman Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, to replace him as state superintendent, among other candidates who work within and outside of the Department of Public Instruction.

Olsen’s office did not immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment.

Meanwhile, Evers said it’s possible he’ll consider withdrawing the waiver sought by Gov. Scott Walker allowing the state to impose work requirements for Medicaid if Republicans don’t write them into state law.

He said he’s concerned about the possibility of imposing work requirements, adding that “it’s a step in the wrong direction” to try to take away people’s ability to access health care.

The Trump administration shortly before the Nov. 6 midterms approved the Walker administration’s request to require childless adults on Medicaid to work or lose coverage but rejected Walker’s proposal to require drug screenings.

The work requirements, which apply to able-bodied adults between the ages of 19 and 49, require Medicaid recipients to work or engage in similar activities for 48 months or risk losing coverage for 6 months. Recipients can then re-apply for coverage.

Walker requested the changes in summer 2017. They won’t take place for another year.

The changes also allow the state to charge monthly premiums of as much as $8, plus $8 co-payments for emergency room visits.

Republican legislators are expected to call a lame-duck session where they could try to curtail some of Evers’ authority, such as making it more difficult for him to thwart Medicaid work requirements by adding them to existing state law. Walker would have to sign off on the change.

Evers said he’s looking to see if there is an administrative response he could take if Medicaid rules were made law.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, has also said Republicans are looking to add to state law existing rules requiring the use of a photo ID to vote.

Gov. Scott Walker last week acknowledged he is also considering moving the date of the 2020 presidential primary, among other proposals. The proposal has received pushback from Democrats, who suggested it’s a move by the GOP to ensure the re-election of state Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly.

The 2020 Supreme Court election is scheduled to coincide with the presidential preference primary on April 7, 2020. Because Democrats are likely to see a contested primary for president, their turnout rate in that election is expected to be higher than for Republicans.

Walker declined to say the proposal is connected with the state Supreme Court race, but added he finds it odd a nonpartisan election, such as one for the state supreme court, would coincide with a partisan one, such as a presidential preference primary.

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