MADISON, Wis. - Republican Senate President Mike Ellis says the release of a secret recording of him discussing an illegal campaign scheme was the "tipping point" that made him decide not to seek re-election.
Ellis announced Friday that he would not run again, ending a 44-year career in the state Legislature.
The announcement came two days after the release of a hidden recording of Ellis during which he talks about illegally coordinating with a political action committee to smear his Democratic challenger.
Ellis tells WTMJ-Radio in Milwaukee that he had been thinking about not running for a while, but the video's release put him over the top.
The 73-year-old Ellis said he feels like he no longer fits in in the Senate.
"I see that compromise is not valued in today's Capitol environment, and that means I don't fit in anymore," Ellis said in a statement. "Special interests hold too much sway, instead of the voice of the people."
He said attention put on he and his family has taken toll over the last nearly five years.
Reaction to Ellis' exit is mixed.
"The video itself was disturbing," said Governor Scott Walker. "I certainly guess its unfortunate that one particular thing ens up being at least in large part the reason for the end of someone's career."
"You've got a group of conservative right-wingers that think Mike is too moderate and they took him out," said Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay. "His own political party is taking him out, which is kind of sad."
Leadership of the Senate saw the situation differently.
Senate Democratic Leader Chris Larson released a statement on Friday regarding Ellis's announcement.
"Mike Ellis not running for re-election is a good start, but he needs to be held accountable by those in his Party who elected him head of the Senate." Larson said.
"They should join us in calling for his removal as President of the Wisconsin State Senate."
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald released a statement not even mentioning Ellis by name or his tenutre in office, saying they are actively recruiting for someone to run for his seat.
Retiring Republican Senator Dale Schultz called Ellis' exit unfortunate.
"In Mike's own words he said 'What I said was terrible,' and I'm certainly not condoning what he said," said Schultz. "I just understand because I've been a part of a process of just how careful you have to be in this era when everyone is seeking 15 minutes of fame at your expense and all you need is a handheld device."
Rep. Penny Bernard-Schaber, D-Appleton, who was challenging Ellis, said Friday this wouldn't change anything for her campaign.
Governor Walker said Friday that former state Reps. Roger Roth or Steve Wieckert could both be likely candidates for the GOP.
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