MADISON, Wis. - Pam Galloway, one of four Wisconsin Republican state senators targeted by recall efforts for backing a divisive union rights bill last year, said Friday that she is resigning to deal with "multiple, sudden and serious health issues" affecting her family.
Galloway's departure will leave the state Senate with an even 16-16 split between Republicans and Democrats, although the Senate wrapped up its legislative session Thursday and isn't scheduled to reconvene again this year.
"After a great deal of thought and consideration, I've decided to put the needs of my family first," Galloway said in a statement. "My family has experienced multiple, sudden and serious health issues, which require my full attention. Unfortunately this situation is not compatible with fulfilling my obligations as State Senator or running for re-election at this time."
Jen Esser, a spokeswoman for Galloway, says the senator's resignation would take effect at midnight.
Galloway, of Wausau, was one of four GOP state senators all but certain to face recall elections this summer over their support for Gov. Scott Walker's law that stripped public workers of nearly all of their collective bargaining rights. The Government Accountability Board, which oversees Wisconsin elections, said enough valid signatures were submitted to trigger elections for the four senators, but that it would wait until March 30 to formally order the elections.
When a lawmaker resigns in the middle of a term, the governor typically calls a special election to fill the vacancy. But because recall signatures were already submitted, the election will go on as scheduled, the GAB said.
"Senator Galloway's impending resignation does not stop the recall process, and a recall election to fill her seat will be held without her name on the ballot," the elections board said in a statement.
The recall election is scheduled be held May 8. However, that date would be reserved for a primary, if one is needed, which would move the election date to June 5.
State Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, the Republican Senate majority leader, said Galloway's resignation had nothing to do with the recall efforts. He said her family has been dealing with a health issue for a few months, but she stayed on through the end of the Senate session that wrapped up Thursday.
"We're grateful that she stayed that long," he said.
Fitzgerald said he felt confident about keeping the seat in Republican hands, and that he'd talk to the two GOP Assembly representatives in that Senate district, Mary Williams and Jerry Petrowski, about running for Galloway's seat.
Democratic state Rep. Donna Seidel had already said she would challenge Galloway in a recall election. She said Friday's announcement took her by surprise, but didn't change her campaign strategy.
"My campaign will move forward as it has been," she said during a break in an Assembly session that was entering its 25th straight hour. "My issues remain the same. I think it will be very easy to distance myself from whoever my Republican opponent is."
Galloway, 56, was two years into her first Senate term. The winner of the recall election will finish out the term, which runs through 2014.
Galloway also has a medical degree, and a state reference guide identifies her as a surgeon. Fitzgerald said her medical expertise will be missed in health-related Senate debates.
Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller said he and Fitzgerald have spoken and will discuss next week how to move forward.
"I appreciated getting to know Senator Galloway. I wish her and her family all the best," Miller said in a statement.
Dinesh Ramde can be reached at dramde(at)ap.org.