Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke of Kaukauna won't run for reelection after 12 years in office

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Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, said he's not running for reelection.
Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, said he's not running for reelection.

KAUKAUNA - Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, announced Tuesday that he's not seeking reelection in fall 2022 after 12 years in office.

"It's time," Steineke told The Post-Crescent. "It's been a good run, but it's time to move on."

Steineke's name has been linked to a possible run for Outagamie County executive, a nonpartisan position, in April 2023, but he said that's no longer on his radar.

"I'm looking at returning to the private sector," he said. "That's the takeaway at this point. I'm not sure what the next step will be. I will spend the next weeks and months figuring that out. I think my time in elected office has passed."

With experience in real estate and government, the 51-year-old Steineke said he would look at "anything and everything that's out there." He said he plans to finish out the remainder of his term.

The 5th Assembly District includes Kaukauna, Seymour, Hobart, part of Little Chute and much of rural Outagamie County.

"The thing I will miss the most is working with constituents and representing an incredibly good district," Steineke said. "The people have been overwhelmingly supportive over the years."

As a local leader of the Tea Party movement, Steineke was elected to the 5th Assembly District seat in November 2010. He quickly rose to prominence among Assembly Republicans, being chosen by them as assistant majority leader in 2013 and majority leader, the No. 2 position among Assembly Republicans, since 2015.

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In a 2015 Post-Crescent interview, Steineke talked about being elected as part of a Republican freshman class in 2010 that "wanted to change the world," he said.

The first piece of legislation it worked on was the highly controversial Act 10, which limited collective bargaining powers for public school teachers and many other public employees. The legislation passed but led to huge protests at the state Capitol.

"We're all sitting there going, 'What are we going to do? We're not doing anything, we've got to do something. Why is nothing going on?'" Steineke recalled of his first few weeks in office. "And then when Gov. (Scott) Walker walked through the door and said this is what he wanted to do, we all just kind of took a step back and said, 'Ah, OK, well, this is it, I guess.' It was kind of setting the course."

Within two years, Steineke had a leadership position and, within four years, was the majority leader.

"Very early, I said, ‘This guy wants to go places,’" then-Rep. Dean Kaufert, R-Neenah, said in the 2015 story. "The time around 2010, when Jim came in, I started seeing changes. Guys like Jim weren’t wasting any time getting involved in discussions and debates. He kind of stepped right in."

As part of his leadership role, Steineke has often been a spokesman for Republican initiatives — many of them controversial — in the Assembly.

Yet he has been critical of Donald Trump, particularly during the 2016 presidential campaign, tweeting about Trump that April: "My judgment is based on the fact that he's a liberal ... and a liar. #ConMan #NeverTrump #Never Hillary"

Rep. Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, authored a law that would connect Outagamie County school employees with child psychiatrists at the Medical College of Wisconsin to provide faster care for struggling children.
Rep. Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, authored a law that would connect Outagamie County school employees with child psychiatrists at the Medical College of Wisconsin to provide faster care for struggling children.

In the Legislature, Steineke authored a 2020 law that created a school-based mental health program in Outagamie County. The program allows students who experience mental health issues at school to connect quickly with child psychologists.

He served as co-chair of the Legislature's Task Force on Racial Disparities that was formed in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha in August 2020. Yet he also took heat for calling the effort "a political loser" in an email to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos before being named to the panel.

He has worked on solutions to homelessness, authoring a 2017 law that created the Wisconsin Interagency Council on Homelessness.

"This is really one where both Republicans and Democrats came together and put aside partisan differences just to try and make the situation for the homeless in our state a little better," Steineke said in 2018.

He co-authored a 2016 law that changed the state's civil service laws, discontinuing the civil service exam for public hiring in favor of resume-based hiring.

Steineke served on the Outagamie County Board from 2006 to 2011 and was the Vandenbroek town chairman from 2007 to 2011.

Contact Duke Behnke at 920-993-7176 or dbehnke@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DukeBehnke.

Contact Larry Gallup at (920) 996-7216 or lgallup@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @LarryGallup.

This article originally appeared on Appleton Post-Crescent: Jim Steineke, Assembly majority leader, not running for reelection

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