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Tony Evers became Wisconsin’s 46th governor Monday with a call to bridge the state’s gaping partisan divide, with prepared remarks urging leaders to stop “governing by retribution” and to “dare to transcend divisiveness.”
Evers, a Democrat, took the oath of office at the state Capitol Monday, with outgoing Republican Gov. Scott Walker and four other former governors looking on.
Others sworn in were Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, the first African-American to hold the state’s No. 2 post, Attorney General Josh Kaul, State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski and Secretary of State Doug La Follette, all Democrats.
In his inaugural remarks, Evers, who had been state superintendent, called on the state to fully fund schools at every level, including all-day pre-kindergarten. In his inaugural address, Evers also said the state must do more to ensure health care is affordable and that Wisconsin “cannot wait any longer for a sustainable solution” to funding its transportation network.
It also included repeated calls by Evers to eschew the growing influence, in state and national politics, of partisanship.
“As elected officials, we are reminded that our obligation and our allegiance are to the people of this state, not any political leader or party. That is the promise and the spirit of our service,” Evers was poised to say, according to his prepared remarks.
Kaul also issued a strongly worded message to Republican lawmakers in his remarks. GOP lawmakers drew national attention for holding a lame-duck session last month to curtail the powers of the governor’s office and, even more extensively, the attorney general.
Kaul, who is succeeding Republican Brad Schimel, mentioned the law early in his speech. Nonetheless, Kaul vowed, “the priorities of the Wisconsin Department of Justice are changing.”
Evers’ inauguration marks a historic change of the guard in the state Capitol. It ends eight tumultuous years of unified Republican control that brought historic rollbacks of collective bargaining rights and vaulted former GOP Gov. Scott Walker into the national spotlight.
You can watch the ceremonies on Wisconsin Public Television or Wisconsin Eye or at ourwisconsinourvalues.org — the inaugural website.
The ceremony continues at least one departure from tradition initiated by Walker in his first inaugural in 2011.
Setup for Monday’s event put the podium and stage, at which Evers will take the oath and give his address, in the North Wing of the Capitol. That matches Walker’s 2011 ceremony, which ended the tradition of doing so in the East Wing in front of the bust of progressive icon Robert La Follette. The East Wing also houses the governor’s office.
The pre-ceremony to the event will feature performances by Latino Arts Strings Program, the Eau Claire High School Madrigal Singers, the Tomah High School Band, the William J. Reed Community Choir and the 132nd Army National Guard Band.
Evers taking the oath turns the page on the historic governorship of Scott Walker, who had presided over unified Republican control of state government since 2011. Walker and lawmakers used that power to implement sweeping conservative changes, especially curtailing collective bargaining rights, that often were deeply controversial.
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