MADISON, Wis. - Assembly Republicans have stripped a leader of his post after members of his caucus say they witnessed him sexually harassing two women. They then voted to replace him for the remainder of the session.
GOP members spent just more than an hour in closed caucus discussing allegations against Rep. Bill Kramer, R-Waukesha, who is accused of groping a female lobbyist and making inappropriate comments to a female staffer; some of the actions were even witnessed by other lawmakers.
"We can't condone that," Rep. Dan LeMahieu, R-Cascade, said. "I don't care what side of the aisle you're on. I don't care what caucus you are. We cannot condone that kind of activity."
Assistant Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, said he witnessed Kramer harass a lobbyist and inappropriately touch a legislative staffer during a trip to Washington, D.C.
Steineke told Wispolitics.com that he walked into a bar where Kramer was, and saw a female lobbyist who looked uncomfortable and was clearly upset with what Kramer was saying to her.
Steineke said the comments were sexual in nature.
"She just looked like a deer caught in headlights," Steineke said. "She looked very uncomfortable."
Steineke said he then saw Kramer put his arm around a female staffer and touch her breast. Steineke said he then got Kramer out of the bar. He said he had never witnessed Kramer act like that before.
Steineke said he went to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos Thursday after returning from the trip.
The caucus voted unanimously to strip him of his leadership post. After a private discussion, two retiring female lawmakers nominated each other to replace Kramer. Lawmakers then elected Rep. Pat Strachota, R-West Bend, as majority leader.
"When I woke up this morning I didn't know this is where I was going to be this afternoon, but I will step up to the challenge as majority leader," Strachota said.
Vos said he's unsure whether Kramer will return to the two remaining session days, but doesn't think he should return next session.
"I think what Rep. Kramer did is something that is reprehensible and something that can't be forgiven," Vos said. "His district will ultimately decide [if he should step down], but I hope he decides not to run for re-election."
Kramer checked into a treatment facility for an unspecified reason on Saturday and wasn't present at the meeting. He hasn't commented on the allegations.
Kramer, of Waukesha, was elected to the Assembly in 2006 and was chosen as majority leader in September. At least one lawmaker brought up concerns at the time about Kramer's behavior, but lawmakers now say they made the best choice they could at the time.
"I think many people in the past had raised concerns about his behavior but I will say that I never, and I think no one here ever, saw the kind of behavior that was witnessed in Washington D.C., so I think that's why action had to be taken," Vos said.
Strachota will serve as majority leader for the final days of the session this month and through the end of the year. All 99 Assembly seats are up for election this fall.
A new leader will be elected in January.
Vos said someone has filed a complaint with Legislative Human Resources against Kramer, but wasn't aware of any criminal charges being filed.
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