A high-profile senator decides not to run for office again in November.
Republican Senate President Mike Ellis tells WHBY in Appleton he will not seek re-election following release of a secretly-recorded video, saying he just doesn’t “fit in” anymore in the current political world because “this is a different era we live in.”
AUDIO: Ellis talks exclusively to WHBY’s Mike Kemmeter, saying this type of secret recording is part of “the new norm” in “gotcha politics.” 1:21
In the controversial recording, which was recorded two weeks ago at a Madison bar right across from the state Capitol building, the long time lawmaker discusses an illegal campaign scheme.
In explaining his decision, Ellis tells WHBY the atmosphere surrounding the Capitol has changed over the last six or seven years. He says he should be able to go out for a fish fry with his wife without having to look over their shoulders to see whether someone is using a cell phone to record their every move.
The 73-year-old Neenah Republican was first elected to the state Assembly in 1970, he was elected to the Senate in 1982.
The decision to not run for office again comes two days after the video was released by Project Veritas, which is a national organization led by conservative activist James O’Keefe. Ellis is confident that if he chose to seek another term, he would win the election. He says it’s hard to leave something you love and have more to give. “I can now appreciate Brett Favre’s on again, off again retirement saga.”
In the video recorded on hidden camera, Ellis talks about creating a political action committee (PAC) for the sole purpose of spending a lot of money to attack his Democratic opponent state Representative Penny Bernard Schaber (D-Appleton). This so-called super PAC would allow Ellis to publicly separate himself from the attack ads. He later told media that upon realizing his scheme was illegal, he drop the idea. Bernard-Schaber would have been Ellis’ first election challenger in 16 years.
Governor Walker says he’s confident the GOP will find a quality candidate to replace Senator Mike Ellis in the race for the 19th Senate district seat. Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson is calling for the removal of Ellis as Senate president.
In a statement, Ellis says his wife Sandy can’t go to the grocery story, gas station, or restaurant without having a camera shoved in her face.
AUDIO: More raw tape with Ellis 2:54
Thanks to WHBY’s Mike Kemmeter