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Now that Evers is governor-elect, what happens to state superintendent?

By Phoebe Petrovic

Wisconsin Public Radio

Thanks to this week’s midterm election results, Tony Evers will move from one statewide elected office to another. So what will happen to the position of state schools superintendent when its current occupant becomes the governor?

The short answer is that Evers can appoint his own replacement.

A Wisconsin state statute says vacancies in elective state offices such as state superintendent are filled by appointment by the governor. The appointed person serves until a special election chooses a replacement, or, if a special election does not take place, until the term ends and a standard election occurs.

Just days after Evers won the governorship, the fate of his current position — and what might happen after — remains uncertain. If he steps down as state superintendent before getting sworn in as governor, Gov. Scott Walker would hold the power to appoint Evers' replacement. If he’s able to ride out his term until inauguration day, he’d select his own successor, who would serve for just a short time before a special election would be held.

But it’s not difficult to imagine how the scenario will shake out. Reid Magney, public information officer for the Wisconsin Elections Commission, says it’s all up to the governor-elect.

"Basically, there is no vacancy in office until Mr. Evers either resigns or takes another office," he said.

There’s also no special election until Evers says so. If Evers keeps his current job until inauguration day, the newly-minted Gov. Evers could choose the replacement for State Superintendent Evers. That successor could serve out the rest of the superintendent’s 4-year term, which goes until 2021.

Evers’ campaign staff did not return requests for comment.

When asked about Evers’ plans for vacating office and a potential replacement, Tom McCarthy, communications director for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, said "I’m not in a position to comment at this time." When asked why not, he repeated the statement.

Evers was first elected as state superintendent in 2009, and won his third term in April 2017. Over his near decade-long tenure, he’s championed public schools through increased state aid and funding for mental health services, rural schools and more. As state superintendent, Evers opposed Walker’s controversial Act 10 legislation, saying that it contributed to the teachers’ shortage.

Evers’ will be sworn in as governor on Monday, Jan. 7.

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