State elections commissioners have voted unanimously to name the top deputy of the state’s departing elections chief, Michael Haas, to succeed him.
Meagan Wolfe had served as assistant administrator of the state Elections Commission.
The bipartisan commission voted Friday to name Wolfe as its chief administrator on an interim basis and ask the state Senate to confirm her permanently. The commission finalized the appointment in a subsequent closed session meeting and announced it Friday afternoon.
The next step is a confirmation vote in the state Senate, which voted in January to oust Haas. It raises the question of whether Republican state senators again will seek to override the will of the bipartisan elections panel — or this time, embrace it.
Nothing requires the Senate to promptly vote up or down on Wolfe’s confirmation. Senators waited a year and a half after Haas became Elections administrator to vote to reject his confirmation in January, along with former state Ethics Chief Brian Bell.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who led the Haas ouster, on Friday praised the selection of Wolfe in a statement. Fitzgerald did not explicitly say if he wants the Senate to confirm her.
“I am encouraged by the commission’s unanimous decision to promote Meagan Wolfe to interim director and restore stability to the top of the commission,” said Fitzgerald, R-Juneau.
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State elections commissioners initially moved to retain Haas and defy the Senate’s January vote. But Haas announced Tuesday that he would not continue to lead the commission because he didn’t want a battle over his leadership to be a distraction.
Republican commissioner Dean Knudson said Friday that he supported naming Wolfe on an interim basis but wanted to conduct a national search for a permanent administrator — in which he emphasized Wolfe could be included.
Other commissioners said they wanted to tap Wolfe for the permanent position and believed retaining her would ensure continuity for the commission following its recent turmoil.
Haas named Wolfe assistant administrator of the commission last year. She began working at the former Government Accountability Board in 2011 and, like other employees there, transitioned to the Elections Commission at the time of its 2016 inception.
Republican lawmakers cited Haas’ past employment with the accountability board as part of the reason they rejected him. Some Wisconsin Republicans faulted the accountability board for its role in a now-concluded secret investigation of Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign.
In the commission’s No. 2 role, Wolfe has overseen its election-security planning — an issue that commissioners deemed critical during Friday’s debate.