Former Senator Ted Kanavas passed away Monday. He was 56. Kanavas represented the 33rd district from 2001 until he retired from the legislature in 2011.

Kanavas was elected in a special election in July 2001 to replace state Senator Margaret Farrow after her appointment as Lt. Governor. Kanavas’ Democratic opponent was future state Treasurer Dawn Marie Sass.

As a legislator, Kanavas fought for legislation to spur business growth in the state. Kanavas was also a pro-life legislator and he was a supporter of school choice.

His decision not to seek re-election in 2010 was a surprise to many in his conservative Waukesha district where he remained popular throughout his time in office.

In 2011, Kanavas was talked about as a possible candidate for US Senate, defeating former Governor Tommy Thompson in a straw poll at the state Republican convention. However, Kanavas decided against running.

After politics, Kanavas was the co-founder of Michael Best Strategies, was an occasional fill-in host on WISN-AM, and was co-host of ‘The Insiders’ on Wisopinion.com. Prior to politics, Kanavas served in the Thompson Administration and in Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner’s office.

Kanavas was remembered in a statement by Governor Scott Walker:

“Ted Kanavas was a great man. He served his district and his state well. It was always a thrill to be around him. Tonette and I send our love and prayers to Mary and his family.”  

Thompson also remembered Kanavas:

“Ted’s passing comes too soon. His endless passion and energy for recognizing, engaging, and solving public problems, both as an elected official and a private citizen, made him remarkable. Ted loved life, his family, and the State of Wisconsin. We shared a commitment to public service and hope for a better future for our state and nation. Ted knew tomorrow can always be better than today. His life revealed and demonstrated this hope. I will miss my friend. My family can only share our sympathy at this difficult time and thank Ted’s for sharing him with all of us.”

Kanavas was also remembered by other elected officials on social media:


We’re going to miss the friendly, easy-going senator that always had a smile and a wave, whether at a parade or at Greek Fest. He leaves behind his wife, Mary, and three children. RIP.