Wisconsin’s Assembly Democrats chose a new leader Monday, and unfortunately the choice was not a surprise. State Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, is now the Assembly Minority Leader, replacing state Rep. Perter Barca, D-Kenosha. Hintz was unopposed.
Barca recently came under fire from his fellow Democrats after supporting the legislation to bring a $10 billion Foxconn manufacturing campus to the Racine-Kenosha area, but Democrats are claiming there are other factors as well. Barca presided over election loss after election loss resulting in the Republicans holding 64 seats in the 99 seat branch of the legislature.
Democrats were probably justified in kicking Barca to the curb, especially since every Democratic candidate for governor is opposed to Foxconn (until Andy Gronik changes his mind again). However, by picking Hintz by letting him run unopposed, Democrats are reminding voters that the party really does not believe good character is a prerequisite for public officials.
Hintz’s first round of trouble began when he was cited for solicitation in a prostitution sting in an Appleton massage parlor. Hintz later gained statewide notoriety after yelling, “You’re f—–g dead!” at former state Rep. Michelle Litjens, R-Oshkosh, following the completion of the Act 10 vote. Hintz did not apologize to Litjens until after the news of the threat went public.
Hintz had a chance to explain his ill behavior towards women on UpFront with Mike Gousha on Sunday. Gousha mentioned the massage parlor incident but did not ask Hintz about it, preferring instead to only ask Hintz about the incident with Litjens.
“The question is, is it about temperament?” Gousha asked. “For a leadership post, do you have the right temperament for that post?”
“Well, that’s the challenge that’s out there,” Hintz said. “It’s something that I’m self aware of. When I’m upset it’s usually because I’m upset. There’s good ways it comes out and bad ways it comes out. I’m self-aware enough to know what my strengths and weakness are. And I certainly had to make that assessment as I take something like this on.”
Hintz said there’s a positive side of his being upset because he’s upset. “I think the positive side of having energy and believing in what you do, is that I think I’m going to be able to do that,” Hintz said.
(Gousha, of course, didn’t ask if the massage parlor incident was a one-time occurrence. Nor did Gousha ask if Hintz will lack credibility as Wisconsin deals with a serious human trafficking problem. And Gousha didn’t ask Hintz what his female colleagues think of his public behavior towards women.)
Amazingly, no women candidates in the Assembly stepped up to challenge Hintz just to provide a more ethical contrast. Perhaps they would have been emboldened in their approach when Republican Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, asked that his Republican colleagues drop the criticisms of Hintz.
It’s doubtful Democrats will ever return the favor.
This is not the first time Assembly Democrats have been willing to overlook ethical lapses for political reasons. In 2010, Democrats refused to expel former state Rep. Jeff Woods, a former Republican who became an independent voting with the Democrats, after his third, fourth and fifth arrests for driving under the influence, the three arrests occurring within a matter of months. After the election during the lame duck session, Democrats attempted to push through contracts with the state employees, getting Woods out of rehab because they needed his vote.
Now they’re being led by someone who explains his behavior by saying he gets upset because he’s upset, so Hintz acts out. That’s not the character of a leader, but the impulse control and temperament of a child. Perhaps, then, he’s the Democrats’ best representative after all.