Republican U.S. Senate candidate Leah Vukmir wrote a letter supporting a fellow GOP legislator three years ago after he was convicted of sexual assault.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Vukmir, a state senator, sent a character reference letter for Bill Kramer to a Waukesha County judge a month after the former state representative was convicted of two counts of fourth-degree sexual assault in 2014. The letter focused on Kramer’s decision to quit drinking that year but made no mention of the sexual assault.
“Being sober has had a profound impact on Bill for the better,” Vukmir wrote. “I also think it is important to recognize that Bill became sober under his own volition. Bill became sober to improve his life, not because he was sent to a court-mandated program. I believe this change has improved Bill’s life considerably.”
Vukmir is running as a candidate for the Republican U.S. senate seat currently held by Sen. Tammy Baldwin. Vukmir is apparently drawing support from Donald Trump’s backers, while her opponent in next year’s GOP primary, Delafield businessman Kevin Nicholson, is backed by Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon.
The winner of the 2018 Republican primary will face Baldwin at the polls next November.
The race is ramping up as a national debate over sexual harassment and sexual assault intensifies. A growing number of women have stepped up to accuse high-profile men in politics, entertainment and the media of inappropriate behavior.
Vukmir campaign manager Jess Ward told the Journal Sentinel that letters like Vukmir’s help judges better understand defendants’ character and that her letter doesn’t diminish or excuse Kramer’s criminal behavior.
Kramer was charged in March 2014 with groping a woman’s breasts in a Muskego parking lot after a 2011 Republican event. He was convicted of the two sexual assault charges in October 2014 and sentenced to five months in jail the following month.
Republicans stripped him of his leadership position in the Assembly shortly before he was arrested after reports surfaced that he sexually harassed a lobbyist and groped a legislative aide while in Washington, D.C., for a fundraiser.
Vukmir is a darling of the Christian right — a reliable vote against reproductive freedom, LGBT equality and contraception. Although a former nurse, she’s proven to be a fierce opponent of government’s involvement in healthcare.