For the Record: ‘Fringe voices’: Rep. Jim Steineke on state of politics as he prepares to leave legislature

MADISON — One of the most powerful Republicans in Wisconsin announced this week that he has no plans to run for reelection this fall. Rep. Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna), Assembly majority leader since 2014, sat down with Naomi Kowles on this week’s For the Record to discuss his decision.

With no plans to run for another elected office after his term finishes next January, Steineke said in the interview that the greatest mistake both parties are making today are listening to ‘fringe voices’.

“I think all too often we find ourselves responding to the fringe the elements of both parties, and unfortunately social media gives a lot of those people a pretty big bullhorn,” he reflected.

He’s not sure, however, if the Assembly’s ongoing investigation into the 2020 election results is an example of listening to fringe voices. Wisconsin has one of the most secure elections in the country, he believes, but he added the reviews are part of an attempt to reassure those who distrust the results.

The results have been upheld in multiple ways, including a recount in Dane and Milwaukee counties, and there’s no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.

Rep. Steineke says he’s not sure whether former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice Michael Gableman is the right person to lead the Assembly’s investigation, who has questioned the results of the election and whose staff have been embroiled in fraud or attempts to overturn the election.

“I don’t know what the right answer is. It’s a really difficult situation because you have people out in the communities that question the veracity of one investigation or another.”

Rep. Steineke was first elected to the Assembly in 2010, during the Tea Party wave when a rush of new Republican legislators flipped the chamber from Democrat to Republican and just before Gov. Scott Walker announced Act 10.

He was fast-tracked to leadership, elected in 2012 as assistant Assembly majority leader and promoted to majority leader in 2014. He didn’t support Donald Trump in the 2016 Republican primary.

He’s part of several high profile lawmakers either stepping down from leadership roles or not seeking reelection this fall, including former Assembly minority leader Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) who stepped down from leadership.

WATCH: Full interview linked at top of article. Photojournalist Lance Heidt contributed to this report.