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Democrat Tony Earl dies at 86

Tony Earl
Source: Abc news

In the 1980s, Tony Earl, a Democrat, served as governor of Wisconsin. Later in life, he lamented the rise of partisanship in politics. Earl just passed away. He was 86.

He passed away “peacefully surrounded by family,” his daughter Julia Earl texted to The Associated Press on Thursday. Earl was an ardent environmentalist and advocate for homosexual rights. A stroke Earl experienced earlier this week landed him in the ICU.

In response to his passing, Governor Tony Evers referred to him as “a great leader and public servant, trusted colleague and mentor, and excellent and loyal friend, Tony was well-liked and revered by so many.”

Because of the tax increases Earl approved in the first few months of his reign, Republican Tommy Thompson dubbed him “Tony the Taxer” and defeated him in the 1983 gubernatorial election. Despite their political differences, Thompson and Earl remained close friends for many years.

Thompson remarked in a statement, “We both ran for Governor in 1986, but we didn’t run against each other.” We joked back and forth about how I felt he should have been a Republican and he was certain that I should have been a Democrat. We were both, first and foremost, natives of the great state of Wisconsin.

Earl’s political career ended after he lost a 1988 Democratic primary to Herb Kohl for the U.S. Senate, but he went on to become a prominent voice for improvements to the election and campaign financing systems and a champion of environmental concerns.

Common Cause Wisconsin’s executive director and longtime friend Jay Heck remarked about Earl, “He never lost his capacity to be decent and polite and was never arrogant.” Perhaps that was a political mistake he made. He lacked the necessary viciousness to pursue the targets of others’ ire. The vast majority of Democrats held him in high regard, and he got along famously with Republicans, too.

Mark Pocan, a Democrat currently serving in the United States Congress, says he volunteered for Earl’s first campaign for governor while he was a high school student.

Former Wisconsin Gov. Tony Earl dies at 86

Source: Abc news

According to a statement released by Pocan on Thursday, “from the first day I met him, he was always the most cordial person, with the intention of nurturing a Democratic bench for the future.” He taught me not to take politics too personally.

Earl had a difficult time turning around the state of the economy while he was in office. When he became office, the unemployment rate was at a staggering 12 percent. And Earl’s effort for a tax hike via the Legislature was a direct result of the $1 billion budget imbalance that plagued his administration and contributed to his defeat in 1986 at the hands of Thompson.

To quote what Earl said to The Associated Press in 2013: “From Day One, I was ‘Tony the Taxer.

Two years after losing reelection, Earl tried again, this time as a progressive Democrat campaigning for the U.S. Senate. His slogan throughout the campaign was “What this nation needs is more Peace Corps and less Star Wars,” a reference to the Republican-backed missile defence system.

Kohl, fresh off his purchase of the Milwaukee Bucks, entered the race late and spent more than $7 million of his own money to win the Democratic primary and the election. This effectively ended Earl’s candidature.

After his failed bid for governor, Earl never sought public office again. He instead practised law in Madison, Wisconsin, and became a vocal proponent of democratic changes. As well as serving on the board of the Joyce Foundation, a philanthropic organisation with a focus on the Great Lakes area, he reconstituted Common Cause of Wisconsin in 1996, an organisation that advocates for campaign finance and election reforms.

The silver-haired Earl was a regular at the Avenue Bar, a Madison eatery just a few blocks from from the Capitol, for more than three decades, including his four years as governor. Reporters, present and past politicians, old acquaintances, and locals who came for the weekly fish fry on Fridays might often find him there, enjoying a LaBatt beer and chatting about politics.

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