A Wisconsin state senator facing a June primary election abruptly resigned Friday, plunging the Senate into a tie and shaking up the state's political landscape.
Sen. Pam Galloway (R-Wausau) announced she would be resigning effective Saturday from the seat she has held since her November 2010 election. In a statement on her website and Facebook page, Galloway said that she was resigning in order to deal with family issues.
"Today I am announcing my retirement from the Wisconsin State Senate. After a great deal of thought and consideration, I've decided to put the needs of my family first," Galloway said. "My family has experienced multiple, sudden and serious health issues, which require my full attention. Unfortunately, this situation is not compatible with fulfilling my obligations as state senator or running for re-election at this time."
Galloway, the chairwoman of the Senate Public Health, Human Services and Revenue Committee, was facing a competitive recall election vs. Rep. Donna Seidel (D). When Seidel's candidacy was announced last month, Democrats were quick to trumpet her candidacy, noting that her district gave her a boost in the Senate race.
Galloway gave no hint of a potential resignation in a statement she posted on her website March 2, where she questioned the validity of the recall signatures and said there were "questionable signatures." In the statement she said that many of the signatures were gathered by out-of-state residents who were paid to force a recall against her.
The recall election will remain in place, but as a special election to fill Galloway's term, according to Reid Magney, spokesman for the state Government Accountability Board. Magney said that since the board determined that the recall committee had met the signature requirement to force an election against Galloway, the race will proceed with a May 8 primary and June 5 election. Candidates would need to file petition signatures to enter the Republican race. A primary will not be held in the event one candidate enters from a party, Magney said in an interview Friday afternoon.
"Essentially the recall committee filed its signatures and the board found there to be sufficient signatures," Magney told HuffPost.
In the event that Galloway had resigned without the recall threat, Gov. Scott Walker (R) would have been responsible for scheduling a special election for her seat.
Galloway's resignation also sets up a 16-16 tie in the Senate until the June 5 election. Following last summer's successful recalls of several Republican senators, Republicans controlled the Senate by a 17-16 majority. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Clyman) told the Wisconsin Radio Network that he and Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) will become co-Senate leaders. There is no precedent for breaking a tie in the Wisconsin Senate.
The Wisconsin tie comes as the Legislature ended its session earlier this week. Wisconsin will be the second state in the country with a tied Senate. In Virginia, while both parties hold an equal number of seats, with Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) casting the tie breaking vote. Tied legislative bodies have been common in other states, with Democrats and Republicans sharing control of the New Jersey Senate, including co-presidents, from 2002 to 2004.
According to Galloway's campaign website, the Senate seat was her first public office. A surgeon by profession, she ran on a primarily economic platform calling for job creation, tax control and spending reduction. Among the legislation she sponsored were bills to allow guns in public buildings, create a tax credit for private school tuition and the prohibition of receiving, transporting or selling fetal body parts.
In addition to the election to fill Galloway's seat, Wisconsin voters will have recall elections pending against Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (R) and three other state senators, including Fitzgerald.