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The first question posed to Doug La Follette in a July 18, 2018 interview on WisconsinEye, the public affairs television network, was simple enough.
"Now, you have been secretary of state for how long, total?" host Steven Walters asked.
"Well, I think around 25 years. I’d have to look it up," La Follette replied.
Perhaps La Follette couldn’t recall.
Or perhaps he wanted to downplay how long he has held the job.
Counting the years
La Follette’s opponent in the Aug. 14, 2018 Democratic primary, Madison Ald. Arvina Martin, told the Capital Times when launching her campaign "it may be time for some new ideas, new blood and someone with a different point of view."
So, just how long has La Follette held the secretary of state’s job?
Nearly 40 years.
From the official Wisconsin Blue Book’s list of secretaries of state:
Doug La Follette
Doug La Follette
After reclaiming the office by defeating Phillips in the 1982 election, La Follette has since served in the job for another 35.5 years and counting.
(La Follette is more accurate about his time in office on his campaign website. He notes that he served as a state legislator for two years until 1974, and "was then elected secretary of state and has been re-elected every four years for the past 30 years.")
Over the years, the Legislature has gradually reduced the duties of the secretary of state. La Follette said in the interview his office once had 50 employees and now it’s just him and one other full-time employee.
The winner of the La Follette-Martin race will face the winner of the two-way Republican primary in the Nov. 6, 2018 general election.
Spencer Zimmerman of Janesville is campaigning to make the secretary of state’s position Wisconsin’s "chief protocol officer for international relations," while Jay Schroeder of Neenah is campaigning to eliminate the office altogether.
When we contacted La Follette about his statement, by the way, he said he would have to "do a little calculation." Then later he emailed us, saying: "Wow, I did some math. It looks like it is more like 40 years; let me say, time flies when you’re having fun. Thanks for calling this to my attention."
La Follette says he’s been Wisconsin secretary of state "around 25 years."
He’s held the job for a total of nearly 40 years.
We rate his statement False.
WisconsinEye, Doug La Follette interview, July 18, 2018
Email, Doug La Follette, July 24, 2018
Capital Times, "Madison alder to run for Secretary of State, incumbent Doug La Follette dubs primary a 'nuisance,'" May 2, 2018
Wisconsin Blue Book 2017-2018, "Wisconsin secretaries of state since 1848"
Doug La Follette campaign website, "Bio," accessed July 24, 2018
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