Sen. Kathy Bernier calls it quits

By: - January 7, 2022 2:47 pm

After garnering statewide — and even national — attention with her criticism of the Wisconsin 2020 election probe run by Speaker Robin Vos and Michael Gableman, Sen. Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls) said she had been considering stepping down but began to “rethink it” after “right wingers” called for her resignation. In fact, Gableman himself said she should resign.

But the 12-year legislative veteran, who served in the Assembly before her election to the Senate, announced Friday that she has decided that she will not run for reelection this fall. However, she said none of the barbs from Republicans who were angry that she defended the 2020 election as safe and secure, and called Vos’ audit a “charade,” figured into her decision.

“The choice to retire was a difficult one to make, but I have been contemplating this decision for some time now and I decided ‘now is the time,’” Bernier said in a statement. “As I go, I want to make it perfectly clear that no one has forced me out and politics has not played a role in my decision.”

Bernier, 65, was a county elections clerk for 12 years before joining the Legislature. She focused much of her defense of the 2020 election on the secure processes of ballot counting that would not allow, she said, for many of the “errors” Donald Trump backers are falsely claiming occurred.

“I would like to thank my friend Kathy for her service to the Legislature and the state of Wisconsin,” Vos said in a statement. “From her role as Chippewa County Clerk to serving as the chair of the Committee on Elections, Election Process Reform and Ethics, vice-chair of the Committee on Education, and member of the Joint Committee on Finance, Kathy has earned the trust and support of her constituents.”

He cited some of her “greatest achievements” as working to increase mental health bed capacity in Eau Claire and “improving voter protection rights in Wisconsin.” He made no mention of her critique of the dangers of his election investigation. Vos recently said that his secretive, taxpayer-funded probe will likely wrap up at the end of this month.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu also extended his good wishes, citing Bernier’s work on mental health resources, and saying, “Her expertise, knowledge, and good humor will be missed in the Senate.”


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Melanie Conklin
Melanie Conklin

Melanie Conklin was the Wisconsin Examiner's founding Deputy Editor, serving from its launch July 1, 2019, until Feb. 1, 2022. She is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications before returning to journalism at the Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.