Favorite to win Assembly seat in Madison uses C-word to describe tavern lobbyists

Francesca Hong won a seven-way Democratic primary in August 2020 for a seat in the state Assembly.

MADISON – The odds-on favorite to win a Madison seat in the state Assembly used the C-word this week to describe the leaders of the Tavern League of Wisconsin for suing the governor over part of his COVID-19 response plan.

“Please note that the corrupt, crooked, (c-word) at The Tavern League do not represent the interests of all bars and restaurants. Since March I have pleaded that we need united messaging, a plan and policy in place to protect public health and local economy. We still have neither,” Francesca Hong tweeted late Tuesday.

Her tweet using a word that disparages women had received more than 500 likes by Wednesday morning. But as some cheered Hong on, the top Democrat in the Assembly said through a spokesman that her use of the word was inappropriate.

Hong, a Democrat and the co-owner of the restaurant Morris Ramen, is running to fill an overwhelmingly Democratic seat in the Assembly.

In a statement and string of tweets Wednesday, Hong said people should be focused less on her use of the C-word and more on the Tavern League, which she contends is putting profits ahead of human lives.

“A swear word might break political decorum. So I’ll stop using it when they drop their lawsuit against Governor Evers’ capacity limits,” she said.

The league, whose board consists of seven men and six women, is a powerful force in the state Capitol. The group’s lobbyist, Scott Stenger, did not immediately react to Hong’s criticisms. 

Hong’s tweets were referring to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by the Tavern League against Democratic Gov. Tony Evers for his order last week that told bars, restaurants and stores to operate at 25% of capacity to help contain the spread of the coronavirus.

A Sawyer County judge on Wednesday blocked Evers’ order as he considers the case.

Hong won a seven-way Democratic primary in August for one of the most liberal Assembly districts in the state. The district was previously represented by Chris Taylor, an outspoken Democrat whom Evers appointed to the Dane County Circuit Court this summer.

A spokesman for Assembly Democratic Leader Gordon Hintz of Oshkosh called Hong’s use of the C-word improper.

“Rep. Hintz does not believe that is an appropriate term to use,” said a statement from Hintz spokesman Aaron Collins.

Patrick Hull, the Republican running against Hong, called her use of the C-word offensive.

“It’s a word that hurts a lot of people when it’s used, even if it’s not directed at them,” he said in a statement. “To throw this word out in what is meant to be an attack on a small business group, no matter what your feelings are about them, is completely inappropriate and shows a distinct lack of caring about oppression and the struggles so many women have faced.”

In her Wednesday statement, Hong said: “As a small business owner who is beyond frustrated that Republican leadership has done nothing by way of a plan to save Wisconsinites in the restaurant industry, I refuse to be used as political ammo to co-sign the deterioration of lives and livelihoods in my community.”

“While people talk about me saying (the C-word) I’m coordinating food box deliveries and trying to promote other small businesses. I implore my soon to be colleagues across the aisle to get to work too. Wisconsinites deserve better.”

Contact Patrick Marley at patrick.marley@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.