Commentary on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Election

Molly Beck

State superintendent candidate John Humphries offered to consider negotiating a consulting contract with opponent Lowell Holtz at the Department of Public Instruction if Humphries defeated incumbent Tony Evers, according to a copy of an email from Humphries.

The Dec. 23 email, which Humphries provided to the Wisconsin State Journal, suggests it was a response to a suggestion from Holtz a day earlier that one of the two candidates drop out of the race on condition the other give him a taxpayer-funded $150,000 job upon winning the state superintendent race.

“My offer includes an opportunity for Lowell to participate in crafting my campaign message,” Humphries wrote. “Lowell would be working alongside me in the campaign, and then in Milwaukee and other urban areas after I am elected. I think the most effective way to do that would be to consider a consulting agreement that would be negotiated once I am elected. Negotiating a contract prior to election would at the very least have an appearance of impropriety. For that reason, I need to be careful with what I agree to but I am interested in continuing our discussions.”

Holtz said that offer amounted to a “bribe” to get out of the race. Humphries campaign spokesman Brian Schupper said that characterization was “ludicrous” since Holtz proposed a day before Humphries leave the race, and that Humphries was offering to discuss ways to possibly work together in the future.

The Humphries campaign released the email Thursday after state Superintendent Tony Evers called on his opponents to release more details about an alleged plan — crafted at the request of unnamed business leaders — to take over the state’s urban school districts.

Notes and links on Tony Evers and John Humphries.