Jon Erpenbach

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Jon Erpenbach
Wisconsin State Senate District 27
In office
1999 - Present
Term ends
January 3, 2015
Years in position 16
Minority Leader, Wisconsin State Senate
Base salary$49,943/year
Per diem$88/day
Elections and appointments
Last electionNovember 2, 2010
First elected1998
Next generalNovember 4, 2014
Term limitsN/A
Date of birth01/28/1961
Place of birthMiddleton, WI
Office website
Jon Erpenbach (b. January 28, 1961) is a Democratic member of the Wisconsin State Senate, representing the 27th state senate district since 1998. In 2003, he served as the Minority Leader.

Erpenbach's professional experiences include communications director; legislative aide; meat packer; radio personality; recreation instructor; short order cook; truck driver.

Erpenbach attended the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh. [1]

Committee assignments


At the beginning of the 2013 legislative session, Erpenbach served on the following committees:

Wisconsin Committee Assignments, 2013
Health and Human Services
Insurance and Housing
Universities and Technical Colleges


At the beginning of the 2011 legislative session, Erpenbach served on the following committees:


At the beginning of the 2009 legislative session, Erpenbach served on the following committees:

Legislative walkout

Erpenbach and the 13 other Democratic senators participated in a legislative walkout on February 17, 2011 in opposition to Assembly Bill 11 - a Republican-sponsored bill aimed at limiting collective bargaining rights, compensation and fringe benefits of public employees.[2] The Democratic departure left the Senate one vote shy of a quorum. Reports confirmed the senators fled to a hotel in Rockford, Illinois.[3] State police were dispatched by Governor Scott Walker (R) to retrieve the senators, but were unable to cross state lines. [4] The 14 state senators who left the state are being described as the "Badger 14" or "Fab 14."[5][6]

On February 22, speaking from the basement of an Illinois hotel, Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller provided the minority response to Gov. Scott Walker, saying, "The governor has the tools at his disposal to put this issue to an end. As soon as he is willing to take a compromise, we will go back to work in an instant." Miller stated that the legislators payed for the trip themselves, and that no taxpayer money was spent.[7]

Walker called on the Democratic senators to return to the state by March 1 in order to vote to restructure the state's debt. If they did not, he stated he may have to start cutting state jobs, saying:
It’s not just a number, it’s not just a budget, it’s ultimately a real person with a real family, so I’m going to push that back as far as I can. We’ve got to have real numbers to balance the budget to avoid layoffs. My hope is those 14 state senators … realize that in the end, it’s much better off to avoid those cuts, it’s much better off to avoid the most dire consequences that will come if we don’t pass this bill.[8]
The Democratic senators said they would not return until the governor was willing to compromise on the budget-repair bill.

Democrats threatened with arrest

Republicans passed a unanimous resolution on March 3 finding the missing legislators in contempt and threatening them with arrest. It gave them until 4 p.m. to return or the sergeant-at-arms was ordered to take "any and all necessary steps, with or without force, and with or without the assistance of law enforcement, by warrant or other legal process, as he may deem necessary in order to bring that senator to the Senate chambers."[9]

The constitutionality of that resolution was unclear, however, as the Wisconsin Constitution only allows for the arrest of legislators while in session if they are suspected of committing a felony, treason, or breach of the peace. Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, said the resolution was an "unreasonable abuse of police power."[10]

Sen. Jon Erpenbach provided the Democratic response, stating, "All 14 of us remain in Illinois, very strong in our convictions. Issuing arrest warrants at 4 p.m. isn't going to solve the problem. This is a debate about protection of the middle class in Wisconsin; that is what the Republicans should be focusing on."[9]

The move by Republicans came the day after they issued fines of $100 a day for not showing up at the Capitol, along with taking away parking spaces.[11] The week before Republicans also passed a rule suspending direct-deposit of paychecks. Sen. Erpenbach found a way around this by granting power of attorney to two of his aides, giving them power to, among other things, pick up his paycheck. In the end Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald mailed the check to Erpenbaach.[12]

Meeting/possible compromises

On March 7, Democratic leader Sen. Mark Miller sent a letter to the governor and senate majority leader asking for a meeting near the Wisconsin-Illinois border to restart talks on the collective bargaining issue.[13] Gov. Walker responded at a press conference, calling the letter "ridiculous," and saying that several meetings between the two sides have taken place, but that Miller has stood in the way of a compromise.[14]

Sen. Chris Larson said, "Dems will return when collective bargaining is off the table. That could be soon based on the growing public opposition to the bill and the recall efforts against Republicans."[15]

On March 8, the Governor's office released an email exchange dated March 6 between Eric Schutt, Walker's deputy chief of staff, and Democratic Senators Cullen and Jauch. The exchange discusses possible compromises on the bill, including allowing unions to bargain for wages beyond inflation rates, permitting collective-bargaining on certain economic issues, allowing public workers to collectively bargain workplace safety issues, and limiting collective bargaining agreements to 2 years or less.[16]

Republicans pass bill

Seal of Wisconsin.svg.png
2011 Wisconsin Senate Recalls

Senators Facing Recall
Robert CowlesAlberta DarlingSheila HarsdorfDave HansenJim HolperinRandy HopperDan KapankeLuther OlsenRobert Wirch

Other Recall Information
Recalls by YearRecall Law in WisconsinRecall laws in other statesRecalls in Wisconsin2011 Scott Walker Budget Repair BillProtests over Budget Repair BillWisconsin Government Accountability BoardRecall timelineElection Results

In a surprise maneuver, Senate Republicans on March 9 passed controversial reforms to the collective bargaining rights of public sector workers. In a process that took just over two hours, Republicans passed the bill by a vote of 18-1, with Sen. Dale Schultz (R) casting the only no vote.[17]

Republicans skirted the need for a quorum by removing the sections of the bill that had to do with appropriating funds. With these removed, the bill only needed to be passed by a simple majority -- rather than requiring a quorum of 20 senators. At 4 p.m. on March 9 a conference committee on the budget-repair bill was convened. Two hours later the committee met and advanced the new measure without debate. Immediately following that, the Senate met and passed the new version, also without debate. It was then sent to the Assembly.[18]

The only Democrat present at the meeting, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D), attempted to stop the proceedings, stating that the committee was in violation of the state's open meeting law. According to the law, most public bodies are required to give 24 hours notice before a meeting. The two hours notice that the committee provided led Barca to declare, "Mr. Chairman, this is a violation of law! This is not just a rule — this is the law."[17] Ignoring Barca, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) ordered the vote taken as shouts of protest rang from the galleries.

The bill was given a stay by Dane County Court Judge Maryann Sumi. On May 26, 2011, Sumi struck down the legislative actions leading to the bill eliminating public employee collective bargaining on the grounds that it violated the state's Open Meetings Law. The state Departments of Justice and Department of Administration appealed the decision to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. [19][20] On June 14 the Wisconsin Supreme Court overruled the district court decision, stating it "exceeded its jurisdiction, invaded the legislature’s constitutional powers...and erred in enjoining the publication and further implementation of the act."[21]

Recall campaigns

In the wake of events surrounding the bill, both Democratic and Republican senators were targeted by active recall campaigns in 2011. Recall sponsors filed signatures on petitions targeting 6 Republican state senators and 3 Democratic state senators. Challenges were filed in all 9 of those campaigns, and the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board approved the six campaigns against Republicans at meetings on May 23 and May 31, and approved the three campaigns against Democrats on June 8. Democrats held onto the 30th district seat on July 19. Republicans lost two seats in the August 9 recalls, but held onto four. Two incumbent Democrats successfully retained their seats on August 16.

Open records lawsuit

On March 24, 2011, Brian Fraley of the John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy, a conservative Wisconsin think tank, filed an Open Records Law request for all emails related to Act 10 (the changes to public employee bargaining laws passed in 2011) received by Erpenbach from January 1 and March 23, 2011.[22] The MacIver Institute wanted to examine these records to determine whether any state employees violated government policies by sending communications from their government email accounts or on state time. Erpenbach responded to the request by releasing thousands of documents to the MacIver Institute but only after removing the names and other personal information relating to the senders.

On February 9, 2012, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed suit for the MacIver Institute to force Erpenbach to release unredacted copies of the senator's Act 10 correspondence.[23] Although Wisconsin Department of Justice lawyers usually defend legislators in cases of this type, Erpenbach hired, at government expense and with permission from Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller, the private law firm Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek. He cited disagreements about the case with Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (R) and claimed that Van Hollen only upholds laws he agrees with, a claim disputed by a DOJ spokesperson. From March through October 31, 2012, the Wisconsin State Senate paid Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek $57,272, in addition to $2,194 paid to University of Wisconsin-Madison professor David Canon for research related to the case. The Senate may also be required to pay the legal expenses of the MacIver Institute if Erpenbach loses. On February 5, 2013, Grant County Circuit Judge Robert Van De Hey ruled that he would examine unredacted copies of the emails to decide if the MacIver Institute should be given access to them.[24][25]



See also: Wisconsin State Senate elections, 2010

Erpenbach was re-elected in 2010 to the Wisconsin State Senate District 27 seat. He was unopposed in the primary. He defeated Republican Kurt Schlicht in the general election on November 2, 2010. [26] [27][28]

Wisconsin State Senate, District 27 (2010) General Election
Candidates Votes Percent
Green check mark transparent.png Jon Erpenbach (D) 51,742 61.84%
Kurt Schlicht (R) 31,909 38.13%
Wisconsin Senate, District 27 Democratic Primary (2010)
Candidates Votes Percent
Green check mark transparent.png Jon Erpenbach (D) 9,160 99.91%


On November 7, 2006, Jon Erpenbach won re-election to the Wisconsin State Senate, District 27. He ran unopposed.[29]

Jon Erpenbach raised $54,176 for his campaign.[30]

Wisconsin State Senate, District 27 (2006)
Candidates Votes
Green check mark transparent.png Jon Erpenbach (D) 60,974

Recent legislation sponsored or co-sponsored by Sen. Erpenbach includes:[31]

  • A bill to make changes to the campaign finance law[32]
  • A bill providing tax credits for hiring certain individuals[33]
  • The Home Buyer Protection Bill[34]
  • A bill expanding eligibility to the veterans assistance program[35]

Campaign donors

Comprehensive donor information for Erpenbach is available dating back to 1998. Based on available campaign finance records, Erpenbach raised a total of $459,097 during that time period. This information was last updated on June 4, 2013.[36]

Jon Erpenbach's Campaign Contribution History
Year Office Result Contributions
2012 Wisconsin State Senate, District 27 Not up for election $46,979
2010 Wisconsin State Senate, District 27 Won $77,504
2008 Wisconsin State Senate, District 27 Not up for election $39,678
2006 Wisconsin State Senate, District 27 Won $54,176
2004 Wisconsin State Senate, District 27 Not up for election $47,345
2002 Wisconsin State Senate, District 27 Won $76,586
2000 Wisconsin State Senate, District 27 Not up for election $13,247
1998 Wisconsin State Senate, District 27 Won $103,582
Grand Total Raised $459,097


Erpenbach was not up for election to the Wisconsin State Senate in 2012. During that election cycle, Erpenbach raised a total of $46,979.


Erpenbach won re-election to the Wisconsin State Senate in 2012. During that election cycle, Erpenbach raised a total of $77,504.


Erpenbach was not up for election to the Wisconsin State Senate in 2008. During that election cycle, Erpenbach raised a total of $39,678.


Erpenbach won re-election to the Wisconsin State Senate in 2006. During that election cycle, Erpenbach raised a total of $54,176.


Erpenbach was not up for election to the Wisconsin State Senate in 2004. During that election cycle, Erpenbach raised a total of $47,345.


Erpenbach won re-election to the Wisconsin State Senate in 2002. During that election cycle, Erpenbach raised a total of $76,586.


Erpenbach was not up for election to the Wisconsin State Senate in 2000. During that election cycle, Erpenbach raised a total of $13,247.


Erpenbach won election to the Wisconsin State Senate in 1998. During that election cycle, Erpenbach raised a total of $103,582.

External links

Suggest a link

Wikipedia® has an article on:


He is married and has two children.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Project Vote Smart - Senator Erpenbach
  2., ASSEMBLY BILL 11, accessed 17 Feb. 2011
  3. Green Bay Press Gazette, Wisconsin Democrats flee to Clock Tower Hotel in Rockford, Ill., to block anti-union bill, 17 Feb. 2011
  4. Bloomberg Businessweek, Senator: Missing Wis. lawmakers left the state, 17 Feb. 2011
  5. The Badger 14
  6. Fab 14 Facebook page
  7. WISN, "State Sen. Minority Leader Responds to Walker," February 22, 2010
  8. Christian Science Monitor, "Wisconsin governor to missing senators: Come back or I'll lay off 1,500," February 28, 2011
  9. 9.0 9.1 Wall Street Journal, "Pressure Mounts on Absent Democrats in Wisconsin, Indiana," March 3, 2011
  10. Wisconsin State Journal, "Senate orders arrest of missing Democrats," March 3, 2011
  11. My Fox Chicago, "Wisconsin GOP Slaps Missing Dems With $100 Daily Fines," March 2, 2011
  12. Talking Points Memo, "AWOL Wisconsin Dem Beats The System, Gets His Paycheck Mailed To Him," March 3, 2011
  13. New York Times, "Wisconsin Democrats Urge New Talks on Labor Bill," March 7, 2011
  14. CNN, "Wisconsin gov: Democratic senator's border meeting idea 'ridiculous'," March 7, 2011
  15. Talking Points Memo, "Wisconsin Dems Deny WSJ Report Of Imminent Return," March 6, 2011
  16. CNN, "E-mails: Wisconsin governor offers concessions on budget bill," March 8, 2011
  17. 17.0 17.1 Miami-Herald, "Wisconsin Republicans bypass Democrats on union bill," March 9, 2011
  18. Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, "Senate advances collective bargaining changes; Democrats to return after Assembly vote," March 9, 2011
  19. Wisconsin State Journal, "Judge strikes down Walker's collective bargaining law, case moves to state Supreme Court", May 26, 2011
  20. Wisconsin Reporter, "Judge: Collective bargaining bill violated open meetings law", May 26, 2011
  21. Shorewood Patch, "UPDATE: Unions Sue to Block Supreme Court's Reinstatement of Controversial Budget Repair Bill," June 14, 2011
  22. MacIver Institute open records request to Senator Erpenbach, March 24, 2011
  23. Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, "WILL Files Open Records Lawsuit Against Senator Erpenbach," February 9, 2012
  24. Mary Spicuzza, Wisconsin State Journal, "Taxpayers foot bill for Erpenbach's legal costs in open records case," Februar 5, 2013
  25. Patrick Marley, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, February 5, 2013
  26. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Candidates Registered by Office, 2010," July 13, 2010
  27. Official GAB primary results
  28. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board Official General Election 2010 Results
  29. Wisconsin State Election Results, 2006
  30. Follow the Money 2006
  31. Legislation
  32. Bill 221
  33. Assembly bill 234
  34. Bill 9
  35. Bill 39
  36., "Erpenbach, Jon," accessed June 4, 2013
Political offices
Preceded by
Wisconsin State Senate District 27
Succeeded by