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Madison mayor announces former Elections Commission leader as new city attorney

Madison mayor announces former Elections Commission leader as new city attorney

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The former head of the state Elections Commission, who resigned that post after Republicans tried to unceremoniously oust him, has been selected as the next Madison city attorney, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway announced Monday.

Michael Haas will replace City Attorney Michael May, who is retiring on June 1 after holding the position since 2004.

Haas served as the bipartisan state Election Commission’s first administrator after Republicans dismantled the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board in 2015.

He had previously served as the head of the elections division within the GAB, which Republicans dismantled after it conducted a secret investigation into former Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign. Though Haas played a minimal role in the probe, Senate Republicans voted down his appointment, saying they didn’t trust that he would be impartial.

The Elections Commission, which includes three Republican appointees and three Democratic appointees, stood behind Haas, but rather than prolong a standoff with the Senate, Haas resigned.

Since stepping down as the interim head in 2018, Haas has been working with the Elections Commission as a staff attorney.

Most recently, he has advised clerks across the state on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Haas, a graduate of Harvard University and the UW Law School, handled legal and administrative issues during the 2012 gubernatorial recall elections, the 2016 presidential and general election cycle and the completion of the country’s only statewide recount of the 2016 presidential race.

Haas has testified in Congress on election security and written a number of articles and papers on election law.

Rhodes-Conway said his expertise in all things elections, ethics and open government is a combination of skills that will “help Madison deal with the challenges ahead.”

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