The Republican legislator seeking to lead Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ racial disparities task force called the job “a political loser” but said the GOP could use the panel to make Gov. Tony Evers and his fellow Democrats look bad, a newly released email shows.
Up North News reported Wednesday that it had obtained an email that Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, sent to Vos in August. A white Kenosha police officer had just shot Jacob Blake, who is Black, in the back a day earlier. Vos was in the midst of assembling a task force in response to the shooting, which sparked protests that night and several ensuing nights.
Vos ultimately appointed Steineke, who is white, as the task force’s co-chairman alongside Democratic Rep. Shelia Stubbs, of Madison, who is Black.
Steineke wrote in the email that there’s no political upside to serving as co-chairman, but he could do it because he has no political ambitions beyond possibly running for Outagamie County executive.
“Leading (the task force) is probably a political loser, because if you get nothing done you get hammered by the left, part of the middle and the press,” Steineke wrote. “You get something done you probably get some kudos from the press but the left and the right will have some issues with it.”
He goes on to say that he and Vos should sit down and figure out where Republicans could compromise on initiatives and where they wouldn’t.
“Then I’d sketch out a plan on how to proceed, making sure it takes some time but yet there will be enough activity to show progress,” Steineke wrote. “I truly think if we do this right we have an opportunity to show how Evers could get things done if his admin weren’t so damned political. We could also make some inroads with voters we don’t normally reach. Worse case scenario, we show a willingness to work on these issues and make the Democrats say no to things.”
Steineke concludes the email by saying Republicans should pick things that can win bipartisan agreement.
“This isn’t a role I relish, but think it’s the right thing to do right now,” he said.
Stubbs didn’t return messages Wednesday, nor did two other Black task force members.
Tory Lowe, a task force member who is Black, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he’s concerned the email suggests the task force wasn’t committed to real results.
“I don’t have hope in the system like that. I don’t do meetings. But doing this with the committee was a battle I was willing to take,” he told the newspaper. “If this was going to be something that wasn’t going to benefit the betterment of the Black community and the brown community then you should never have put me in the room.”
Steineke said in a phone interview with The Associated Press that when he said leading the task force was a “political loser” he simply meant that some people weren’t going to be happy with the panel’s recommendations no matter what.
He denied that his remark about making sure the panel takes time indicated a plan to drag things out, saying he meant that it takes time to have conversations and examine the issues. He said the task force is beginning to draft its final recommendations and has meetings this month and in March.
“We can’t just throw together solutions in a matter of weeks,” Steineke said.
He stressed that if the email is read in its entirety, it’s clear that he believes in the task force’s mission.
“If you pull certain phrases out of there, I get where people might have concerns about it,” he said. “But if you look at the totality of the email, I’m raising my hand to volunteer for this because I think it’s important. I felt like I had the right temperament to lead the task force on this.”