Jennifer Shilling not seeking re-election

Jennifer Shilling

MADISON, Wis. (WKBT) – After 20 years of service, State Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling will not seek re-election.

In a statement, Shilling said, “Today I announce I will not seek re-election to the State Senate. It was not an easy decision, but I know it is time to put my family first and look to a future where I can put away my little red suitcase that has accompanied me on my weekly travels to Madison for the past 20 years.”

Shilling is finishing her third term in the State Senate after she unseated Republican incumbent Dan Kapanke in a 2011 special election. She previously served as the State Representative for the 95th Assembly District. She was elected to serve as the Senate Minority Leader in 2014 and is the longest-serving female leader in Wisconsin legislative history.

“It has been a tremendous honor to represent western Wisconsin in the Legislature, and I cherish the many friendships that I have made along the way. It is honestly something I never imagined for myself as a young girl growing up in Wisconsin. I have always said that running for office was a family decision, and it really is the only lifestyle my family knows. However, with Nate in high school and Zach entering middle school, I know the time with our boys at home is fading. Chris has been a tremendous support from both near and far, and he has managed the schedule, activities, and life’s happenings with love and patience. I could not have spent the past 20 years in the Legislature without his love, support, and understanding of the job. However, it is time that I explore new opportunities and challenges in this season of waning family time.

“Thank you to the voters of the 32nd Senate District for placing your trust in me to be your voice in Madison. It is an honor, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have served you in the Legislature. A broad smile, firm handshake, and kind words throughout the district brightened my day, as I listened to, learned from, and laughed with the hardworking people of western Wisconsin. From dairy breakfasts, community events, and business tours to parades, school visits, and disaster recovery efforts, you showed me what perseverance, ingenuity, and strength looks like across the Driftless Region.

“I also want to thank my Democratic colleagues for the opportunity to serve as the Senate Democratic Leader. It is a responsibility that is challenging and I hope I met your expectations. I have the utmost respect for this institution and aspired to bring civility and common sense to the Senate, as we are all serving a small role in our state’s history.

“I do not leave with regrets, I leave with wonder – wonder about the future, about what will be. Wonder about what lies ahead, and a wonder of new ways that I will continue to be able to serve my community, and others.

“Thank you from a very full and grateful heart. Onward, Upward, Forward!”

Republican candidate Dan Kapanke

Dan Kapanke, the Republican candidate for the 32nd District Senate seat, issued a statement congratulating Shilling on her retirement.
“She leaves a legacy of a distinguished career representing the hardworking people of western Wisconsin. I wish her and her family the best in the years ahead,” said Kapanke, whom Shilling unseated in a special election in 2011.

Rep. Ron Kind released this statement following the news of Senator Shilling’s decision not to seek re-election:

“Whether it was working as an aide for myself and State Representative Mark Meyer, or serving in the State Assembly and State Senate, State Senator Jennifer Shilling has been a tireless, dedicated, and dependable public servant for more than 25 years and we’ve been lucky to have her. Jen has been an effective and strong leader for Wisconsin’s 32nd Senate District. She bridged the partisan gap with a clear vision of her priorities but always did so with a great sense of humor. Wisconsinites always could count on Jen to roll up her sleeves, get things done, and pass legislation that made a difference. Jen’s decision to retire is a huge loss not only for our district but for our state. As Jen likes to say, ‘onward, upward and forward,’ thank you for your service, Jen.”

Rep. Jill Billings released the following statement following Senator Shilling’s announcement:

“I’d like to thank Senator Shilling for her years of service to the people of the Coulee Region. She has been a strong voice, leader and representative for all of us. Senator Shilling’s leadership will be missed, as she’s been a dutiful and passionate public servant for our region. I wish her, and her family, the best as she moves on to new adventures in life.”

State Representative Steve Doyle released this statement:

“Senator Jennifer Shilling has been the model of public service to her constituents and to our entire state over the past 20 years. She has fought tirelessly for the priorities held near and dear to Western Wisconsin, and she will be sorely missed.”

“It has been a pleasure to serve alongside her over the past nine years in the legislature. It was an honor to call her my colleague and mentor, and it will always be an honor to call her my friend. I wish her all the best in the future.”

Assembly Democratic Leader Gordon Hintz released a statement as well:

“Senator Shilling has been a true public servant to her constituents over the past 20 years, advocating on behalf of the priorities important to people in Western Wisconsin while championing the values of opportunity and fairness. She has done it all in her time in office, including serving on Joint Finance and as Senate Democratic leader, where she has been an effective voice on behalf of working families throughout all of Wisconsin.”

“I appreciate that Jen has not let the job change who she is as a person. She has always prioritized family and being a member of her community that people can relate to. It has been a please to serve as leader alongside of her over the past two and a half years and in the legislature over the past thirteen. I value her sense of humor and friendship and wish her all the best in the future.”