MILWAUKEE — A Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial hopeful backed off his plan to distribute Ku Klux Klan-style hoods at the Republican state convention Friday, acknowledging that it was a ploy to draw media attention to his campaign.
Brett Hulsey, a bombastic state representative from Madison, is vying with better-funded Mary Burke for the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Gov. Scott Walker in November. Burke is widely seen as the front-runner, and Hulsey’s campaign has been little more than a sideshow so far, with invitations to join him for beers, farmer’s market outings and at a tailgate party.
Hulsey told reporters Thursday that he planned to dress up as a confederate soldier and hand KKK-style hoods to Republicans at their annual gathering in Milwaukee. He said he wanted to mock a GOP proposal calling for the Legislature to affirm Wisconsin’s right to secede and what he called racist Republican policies.
Democrats and Republicans alike have distanced themselves from Hulsey’s antics over the last few weeks. Wisconsin Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate has said handing out KKK hoods has no place in the public dialogue. Gerard Randall, chair of the state GOP’s black caucus, on Friday called the plan a reprehensible stunt.
“He’s brought dishonor upon himself and other members of the Democratic Party,” Randall said.
Hulsey showed up outside the convention center in downtown Milwaukee on Friday in a homemade soldier’s outfit that consisted of cowboy boots, a cowboy hat, grey slacks and a grey blazer adorned with yellow tape standing in for military piping.
He carried two signs with him. One had his name on it; the other featured a handwritten list of Republican polices he feels are racist. But he had no hoods.
He said he decided to leave them in his car after realizing they were “a little over the top.” He later acknowledged they were a really a stunt to draw the media to him.
“I had to go bigger to get attention,” he said.
Hulsey railed about Walker’s law that stripped most public workers of their union rights as well as measures that make it harder to strip public schools of American Indian nicknames and relaxed mining regulations to jump-start an iron mine in northern Wisconsin south of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa’s reservation.
He later stood on a street corner and tried to introduce himself to GOP delegates as they headed out for dinner.
“Taxes are lower! Get over it!” one woman shouted at him. Walker signed a $541 million tax cut bill in March.
Delegates are expected to vote Saturday on a tea party-backed resolution calling on the Legislature to affirm that Wisconsin has the right to secede under the Constitution’s 10th Amendment. It also calls on legislators to nullify a number of federal laws, including President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.
Republican leaders have been trying to downplay the resolution. On Friday 50 Assembly Republicans sent a letter to delegates saying the resolution is a distraction.