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MILWAUKEE — Madison Rep. Brett Hulsey did not follow through on his vow to distribute Ku Klux Klan hoods to Republicans gathered for their annual state convention to protest what he described as Gov. Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP’s “racist record.”

“Sometimes even I have to pull back from the edge,” Hulsey said Friday, admitting to reporters he never seriously intended to hand out the three handmade hoods he left folded on the front seat of his car. “My goal here was to get press attention, and I got it,” Hulsey said.

Republicans and Democrats have strongly condemned the stunt. And Friday the Assembly’s Democratic leader further distanced the party from Hulsey.

“Brett Hulsey has not been considered a member or actively caucused with the Assembly Democratic Caucus for some time now,” said Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha.

An African-American GOP delegate called Hulsey’s approach “extremely racist and offensive.”

Pam Stevens, from Kenosha, said Hulsey is trying “to use black people” to get attention for himself and his campaign.

After speaking with reporters, Hulsey, a Democratic candidate for governor, walked backward through the streets of Milwaukee to the hotel where Republicans had gathered. He wore a makeshift Confederate soldier uniform he put together with the help of thrift store finds, including a gray suit jacket and wool slacks, yellow tape, a yellow sash, sports medals, a bolo tie and a straw hat that also serves as a solar cellphone charger.

Hulsey was escorted away by security officers when he tried to enter the Hyatt Regency, the main hotel for GOP convention-goers. Then, at the neighboring street corner, he tried to engage attendees.

“Taxes are lower,” one woman called to him, as she hurried away. “Get over it.”

“We’re not racists,” a man said. “It has nothing to do with racism.”

Tom Brew, a Madison Republican who supports Walker, stopped to talk with Hulsey and signed his nomination papers.

“I’m signing to get him on the ballot. If someone wants to run, let him run,” Brew said. “It’s not everyday we get a true Democrat in Confederate uniform to run for governor.”


State Government Reporter for Wisconsin State Journal