MADISON – The Wisconsin Elections Commission cleared the way Tuesday for seven candidates for state schools superintendent to appear on the spring ballot, including one who half the commissioners said didn’t qualify because of an error on her campaign paperwork.
State law says candidates cannot place “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” “Dr.” or other titles before their names on their nomination paperwork. Shandowlyn Hendricks-Williams listed herself as a doctor on her petitions to get on the ballot for state schools superintendent.
The commission deadlocked on whether Hendricks-Williams qualified to be on the ballot, which allowed her to go on it.
Also on the ballot for the nonpartisan position of superintendent are Sheila Briggs of DeForest, Joe Fenrick of Fond du Lac, Troy Gunderson of West Salem, Deborah Kerr of Caledonia, Steve Krull of Milwaukee and Jill Underly of Hollandale.
Three commissioners said they believed the commission had the authority to allow Hendricks-Williams on the ballot because she had complied with all but one campaign rule. The other three said they didn’t have that power.
Hendricks-Williams has a doctorate in educational leadership from National Louis University, according to her campaign website. Some commissioners said they feared allowing her to use her title could lead other candidates in the future to list themselves as having titles they didn’t have, such as governor or senator.
A Feb. 16 primary will reduce the field to two candidates for the April 6 general election.
The current superintendent, Carolyn Stanford Taylor, is not running. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers held the post before Stanford Taylor, and he appointed her to the job in 2019 after he was sworn in as governor.
Voting to allow Hendricks-Williams on the ballot were Commission Chairwoman Ann Jacobs and Commissioners Mark Thomsen and Robert Spindell. Jacobs and Thomsen are Democrats; Spindell is a Republican.
Voting against putting Hendricks-Williams on the ballot were Commissioners Dean Knudson, Marge Bostelmann and Julie Glancey. Knudson and Bostelmann are Republicans; Glancey is a Democrat.
Questions over Pridemore’s address
The commission will meet Friday to consider another challenge — this one over whether former state Rep. Don Pridemore should be allowed on the ballot in a special election for state Senate.
Pridemore, a Republican, listed his home on nomination papers at a property that Hartford Mayor Tim Michalak and his wife also list as their home address. The complaint questions whether Pridemore really lives at the Hartford address, noting that his family trust owns property in nearby Erin.
Michalak said Pridemore is selling his home to his son and will live with the Michalaks until he builds a new home.
Others running for the Senate seat are Republicans Andrew Dickmann of Juneau, Todd Menzel of Columbus and John Jagler, a state representative from Watertown.
The winner of the Republican primary will face Democrat Melissa Winker of Oconomowoc; Ben Schmitz of Sun Prairie, who lists himself as a member of the anti-abortion American Solidarity Party; and Spencer Zimmerman of Janesville, a perennial candidate who does not live in the district and lists himself as a “Trump conservative.”
The special election is being held to fill the seat that Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau gave up when he was sworn into Congress this month.
Also Tuesday, the commission allowed five Republicans and one Democrat to appear on the ballot in a special election to replace former state Rep. John Nygren, a Republican from Marinette who stepped down just after winning a new two-year term. Nygren is now lobbying for health insurers.
The Republicans are Elijah Behnke of Oconto, Debbie Jacques of Green Bay, David Kamps of Coleman, Michael Kunesh of Marinette and Michael Schneider of Green Bay. The winner of the February primary will face Democrat Karl Jaeger of Marinette in the April general election.
Contact Patrick Marley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.