Given the Dem strategy of running against a "War on Women" count on the media to magnify any gaffes, blunder, or incidents of insensitivity to women. Here in Wisconsin, this means that the single scariest politician may be Assembly Majority Leader Bill Kramer (R-Waukesha), who is always one joke away from a headline.
I think it is safe to say that the warning was ignored, maybe because it was old news.
There is likely no woman in state politics who was unaware of Kramer’s pattern and practice of conduct. Sometimes it was simply inappropriate humor aimed at colleagues, staffers, lobbyists, or wives. But sometimes, including on out-of town-trips in which he was representing the state, it crossed the line into offensive and embarrassing. The stories were legion. Alcohol was often involved.
According to news reports and my own sources, Kramer’s conduct last week went beyond tasteless jokes, and included physical contact that could be construed as sexual assault.
The tragedy here – and there is an element of tragedy -- is that Kramer was a bright, talented, gutsy politician, who earned his stripes during the fight over Act 10. But he was also apparently unable to control his behavior, which was notorious.
Assembly Republicans now have a stark choice: a quick exit for Kramer or a slow bleed. If Kramer refuses to step aside, look for the dam to break: other women will come forward. There will be more stories, possible legal action, and some very awkward questions.
The most awkward question: why did the Assembly GOP caucus turn a blind eye to Kramer’s behavior? During the caucus vote that elected him, the issue of his behavior was raised by Representative Chris Kapenga. It was out there, but representatives voted for him anyway. The reasons are complex. Kapenga was unpopular; some representatives thought his opponent, Dean Knudson, wasn’t ready for leadership; others simply wanted to clip the wings of Speaker Robin Vos, who opposed Kramer.
Shortly after he was elected Majority Leader, one representative told me, "He’s a time bomb waiting to explode." This weekend it exploded.
Democrats/media will understandably have a field day. For the Assembly GOP, however, this should be a teachable moment. We’ll find out shortly whether they learned anything.