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Parties pick new legislative leadership in Madison

A new two-year legislative session begins in January, and for the first time in years, majority Republicans have a new majority leader and a new co-chair of the budget committee.

The incoming GOP leader in the Senate is Devin LeMahieu. He said he expects to have a similar leadership style to outgoing leader Scott Fitzgerald, a newly elected congressman who will resign his state Senate seat in January.

“Obviously, we’re two different people,” LeMahieu said. “But over the last six years, I’ve gotten to watch Congressman-elect Fitzgerald, and I learned a lot from him. I think we have pretty similar personalities where we’re fairly laid back.”

LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, beat out Sen. Roger Roth, R-Appleton, for the post during a closed caucus on Nov. 5, while Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, was elected Senate president, the post currently held by Roth. LeMahieu, 48, was first elected to the Senate in 2014.

Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills and the longtime co-chair of the Legislature’s budget committee, went into the Nov. 5 meeting vying for the No. 2 spot in leadership. But her office said she withdrew her name from consideration during the caucus. Darling has co-chaired the committee for a record six terms but was viewed as aligned with Roth heading into leadership elections. And a few days later, LeMahieu named Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, as the new co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee.

In other races: Sen. Dan Feyen, R-Fond du Lac, was reelected assistant majority leader.

Sen. Pat Testin, R-Stevens Point, was elected president pro tempore,a post that was held by Marklein.

Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, was reelected caucus chair.

Sen. Kathy Bernier, R-Lake Hallie, was elected caucus vice-chair.

The other three caucuses all stuck with their current top leaders.

Assembly Republicans re-elected Robin Vos as speaker and Jim Steineke as majority leader, rejecting challenges from two members who had argued for a different approach. Republicans lost two seats in the November elections, but still have a wide majority.

In other Assembly GOP races: Rep. Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, was re-elected speaker pro tempore after facing no opposition.

Rep. Kevin Petersen, R-Waupaca, was elected assistant majority leader, beating out Reps. Shae Sortwell, R-Two Rivers, and Nancy VanderMeer, R-Tomah.