Record number of women advise Evers

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FOR the first time in Wisconsin history, a majority of those working in the Office of the Governor are women.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has women as his chief of staff and three deputy chiefs of staff, negotiating with Republicans who control the Legislature and are mostly men, and running state agencies.

Evers, who had been state superintendent of public instruction, has also named a woman and the first African-American, Carolyn Taylor, to succeed him as chief advocate for the state's one million school-age children.

EVERS is proud to break the pattern of about 170 years of male-dominated Governor's Office decision making, Chief of Staff Maggie Gau told a wispolitics luncheon last week.

"I think it's a great thing," said Gau, a veteran Capitol aide who worked on President Obama's 2012 campaign that won Wisconsin. She is a former aide to Democratic Sen. Janis Ringhand, of Evansville.

"Trusting women is something that he doesn't just talk about," said Gau.

Evers had a female chief of staff when he was superintendent of public instruction.

"He empowers women," Gau said. "This is something this governor really believes in."

IN remarks that drew applause, Gau said Evers is determined to "show women they can be a part of this process."

"Who you have in the room affects a lot of the policy decisions you are making," Gau said, adding:

"If you're talking about a policy, you're talking about a decision and [if] everyone in the room looks and sounds the same, and is from the same place - guess what - you're going to have very similar answers."

Women will play key roles in decisions as the "pragmatic" Evers works on the top three issues that got him elected - expanding health care, more school aid and transportation funding, including mass transit systems, Gau said.

Evers wants a state government that "reflects" Wisconsin, Gau said. The state's population has slightly more women than men, demographers report.

GAU is the first woman to be chief of staff since Susan Goodwin had that job for Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, chief executive from 2003 until 2010. In an interview, Goodwin once observed that she had only one boss - the governor.

The closest adviser to Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who lost his re-election bid to Evers, was Walker's wife, Tonette. Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch served two terms with Walker.

There are signs that women played a significant role in Evers win over Walker.

Women tend to vote more often than men - in Wisconsin and across the nation, said political scientist Charles Franklin, director of Marquette University's Law School Poll.

Marquette's Jan. 16-20 poll of 800 registered voters also found that women who responded viewed Evers more favorably than men.

SPECIFICALLYH, the January Marquette poll found:

• By a margin of 46% to 36%, women had a more favorable opinion of Evers than men. But 31% of women, and 37% of men, surveyed had no opinion of Evers.

"There are a lot of people who say they don't know about Evers as governor yet, which is reasonable enough after so little time in office," Franklin said. Evers took office Jan. 7.

"But men are a little more likely than women to say they don't know about Evers," Franklin added.

• By a margin of 48% to 41%, women respondents had an unfavorable opinion of Walker. The poll found that 53% of men had a favorable opinion of the Republican governor, but only 45% of women agreed.

• By a margin of 60% to 43%, women polled disapproved of President Trump's job performance.

The poll's margin of error was 3.9%.

OVERALL, Franklin said:

"As we've seen for some time, women are more positive to Democrats and men more positive to Republicans. The differences are larger for Trump than for Evers or for Walker, though not small in either case.

"Part of the gender difference is because women are more likely to call themselves Democrats and men more likely to say they are Republicans. However, women tend to have a more favorable view of Evers than men, even after controlling for partisanship."

The last governor to negotiate big deals across party lines was four-term Republican Tommy Thompson, whose senior advisers included few women. Evers wants to do big deals relying on the advice of more women than men.

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