MADISON, Wis. — State Superintendent Tony Evers mocks his opponent Lowell Holtz in the first television ads of the race, referencing an alleged deal Holtz discussed designed to net him a personal driver and six-figure state job.
Evers, the two-term incumbent state superintendent overseeing the Department of Public Instruction, released a pair of 30-second spots on Monday that he said will begin airing across the state on Tuesday. Holtz accused him of taking "cheap shots" to avoid talking about his record.
The election is April 4.
In one spot to air in Milwaukee and Madison, Evers touts his record and says, "My opponent's plan raises his own salary and pays for a personal driver." In another ad, to run in Green Bay, Wausau and La Crosse, Evers is shown driving while wearing a T-shirt professing his love of public schools.
"I don't need some chauffeur to show me the way," Evers says. "I'll drive myself to make sure we're putting taxpayer money where it belongs, in the classroom."
The ads, without naming Holtz, refer to discussions Holtz had with former state superintendent candidate John Humphries in December. Humphries said Holtz proposed a deal for one of them to run against Evers and guarantee the other a $150,000 state job and personal driver for dropping out.
Humphries made public a document Holtz gave him at the meeting that discussed the job and driver. One of Evers' ads shows a copy of that document, highlighting the offer of a personal driver.
Holtz has denied it was a bribe and instead said he was sharing rough ideas presented to him by business leaders he's refused to name.
The state superintendent's salary is set by law at $120,111 and whoever is elected doesn't have the power to change it. That rests with the Legislature and any increases wouldn't go into effect midterm.
No one at the Department of Public Instruction makes $150,000 or more and no one has a personal driver, agency spokesman Tom McCarthy said.
Holtz issued a statement saying he wasn't surprised by the Evers ads. Holtz has yet to run any television spots and no outside groups have run ads for either candidate.
"This election needs to be about making our schools safer," Holtz said in a written statement. "About listening to parents and giving them control over their children's education. Dr. Evers wants to make it about anything else."