Vukmir Hits Baldwin Over Vote for Lighter Sentencing for Child Sex Offenders

Wisconsin Dem opposed harsher sentences for child sex offenders while in state legislature

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (Getty Images)
August 27, 2018

Leah Vukmir, the Republican nominee challenging Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D., Wisc.) this fall, will hit Baldwin over a past vote for lighter sentencing for repeat convicted child sex offenders, according to a campaign memo shared with the Washington Free Beacon.

The memo details Baldwin's vote against the passage of Assembly Bill 505, which stipulates life without parole to repeat child sex offenders, during her time in the Wisconsin state legislature. Baldwin was one of only 22 state representatives in 1997 to oppose the bill, which passed 79-22.

"This bill creates a new category of persistent repeater. Specifically, the bill provides that a person is a persistent repeater if he or she has one or more prior convictions for a serious child sex offense and is subsequently convicted of committing another serious child sex offense," text of the bill reads. "Like a person with 3 serious felony convictions under current law, a person who is a persistent repeater based on convictions for serious child sex offenses must be sentenced to life without parole."

The bill went on to state that "child sex offenses covered by the bill are sexual assault of a child, sexual exploitation of a child, incest with a child, child enticement, soliciting a child for prostitution, sexual assault of a student by a school instructional staff person, causing a child to view or listen to sexual activity, exposing a child to harmful material and, if the victim was a minor and the convicted person was not the victim's parent, false imprisonment and kidnapping."

Vukmir will also draw attention to Baldwin's 1994 opposition to a supermax prison. Baldwin had said a new prison could help with overcrowding but that is was "premature to site and fund a new prison."

Vukmir additionally hits Baldwin for praising Tony Evers, Democratic candidate for governor in Wisconsin, as a "rock solid progressive" and "champion for children" in a fundraising email. Evers said Wisconsin spends too much on corrections and wants to release prisoners, according to Vukmir.

Evers did not revoke the license of a teacher who watched porn on the job and made explicit comments about students as he was serving as state superintendent of public instruction, the Washington Free Beacon noted last year after obtaining a copy of a report that was put together following an investigation into Andrew Harris, a seventh grade teacher at Glacier Creek Middle School in Dane County, Wisc.

The report detailed how another teacher had filed a report against Harris for viewing and sharing pornographic materials on his school computer and email account during work hours. Harris had received 23 emails from his sister between the summer of 2008 and late 2009 that contained pornographic images, movies, and jokes while at the school.

One such email mentioned in the report included "a joke about a married couple on vacation who consider buying sandals that are said to make the owner a sex freak. After trying them on the wrong feet, the husband attempts to have anal sex with the male salesman while the salesman screams that he has them on the wrong feet."

Harris also made comments during meetings that upset coworkers, according to interviews during the investigation.

Harris had said that a seventh grade female who was struggling in school should "brush up on her blow job skills because that's all she'd be good at later in life." Harris would also make comments on the "chest sizes or the overall physical appearance" of female students in grade school.

The report also said that Harris retaliated and harassed the teacher who had reported him.

In May 2010, the board voted to end his employment and his actions were reported to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Donald Johnson, the district superintendent, asked for Harris's license to be revoked.

Evers, who was acting as Wisconsin state superintendent of public instruction during that time, refused the request, saying he did not have the power to revoke the license.

The Middleton Education Association, Harris's union, interjected following Harris's job termination and demanded he be given the job back. An arbitrator argued that Harris's discipline was unfair and asked for the termination to be reduced to a suspension. Harris was allowed back at the school but had a teacher's aide had to be placed in the classroom alongside Harris.

"The report you likely have was issued by the school district in justification of their employment action (firing him). It is not unbiased and is designed to highlight the points they felt were favorable," Thomas McCarthy, the communications director for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, told the Free Beacon last year. "Attached you will find the arbitrator's decision, which evaluated the facts of the case and called witnesses to validate the information. This will hopefully be helpful in setting some of the record straight in terms of the incident in question."

"In regards to your licensing question, it's important to note that licensing decisions are separate from employment actions in Wisconsin," continued McCarthy. "The state agency handles licensing, but is not involved in employment actions. To meet the terms for a license revocation during this period of time, the action in question had to meet the immoral conduct standard AND have a direct nexus with a child/student. The second prong of that test could not be met in the Andrew Harris case, despite the agency's best efforts to do so." [Emphasis in the original.]

The Republican Party of Wisconsin said that Evers did have the authority, under 2010 Wisconsin State Statutes, to revoke Harris's license.

"Long before Tony Evers, Tammy Baldwin wanted criminals back on our streets, as she voted against life without parole for repeat sex offenders," Vukmir says. While Baldwin and Evers' aim to release violent criminals, Leah Vukmir is the pediatric nurse and mother who will enforce the law and push for policies that keep our children safe."

Baldwin's campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.