Election 2022 Secretary of State (copy)

Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette speaks to reporters after a hearing on April 1, 2011, in Dane County Circuit Court in Madison. La Follette has said he decided to run again to stop Republicans from meddling with elections.

Doug La Follette has served as Wisconsin’s secretary of state for 44 of the last 48 years, making him one of the longest serving statewide elected officials in the nation’s history. Yet he is still something of an outsider.

A Democrat who frequently criticizes his own party for its lack of seriousness when it comes to addressing environmental issues, he maintains an independent streak that has won favor with the voters of Wisconsin. Despite spending little money on his campaigns, La Follette is often one of the state’s top vote getters.

But this year La Follette faces a concerted challenge from a well-financed Republican who is getting support from Republican operatives in the state and nationally.

What gives? Did La Follette do something wrong? No.

In fact, he did something right.

An old-school advocate for good government and clean elections, La Follette has refused to politicize the office of secretary of state, which in Wisconsin has no role in state elections.

That upsets Republicans, who want to remake the secretary of state’s office as part of a scheme to dismantle the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission and politicize management of elections. To that end, state Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, a hyper-partisan Republican from Clinton, was picked by party bosses and campaign donors to take on the incumbent.

Building on former President Donald Trump’s false claims about oversight of the 2020 election in Wisconsin — claims that have been discredited by serious observers of elections and dismissed by the courts — Loudenbeck openly declares that “the Wisconsin Elections Commission must be abolished and replaced with a new model.”

The model Loudenbeck and her partisan allies entertain would have the secretary of state’s office take over election oversight.

It’s not hard to see where this ends. In an era of Trumpian “Big Lie” politics and Republican scheming to make voting harder for anyone who doesn’t have a MAGA hat attached to their head, Loudenbeck’s election would put a Republican partisan in a position to meddle with elections in precisely the way that Donald Trump demands.

La Follette won’t let that happen. If he is reelected, La Follette promises to focus on assuring that the secretary of state’s office responds to the needs of Wisconsinites, while serving with the state treasurer and attorney general on the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands.

Instead of playing political games, as Loudenbeck proposes, La Follette would maintain the independence and integrity of the secretary of state’s office.

Voters are justifiably concerned about threats to democracy. One of the best ways to avert those threats is by reelecting Doug La Follette on Nov. 8.