Tony Earl

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Tony Earl
Anthony Earl (Wisconsin Governor).jpg
41st Governor of Wisconsin
In office
January 3, 1983 – January 5, 1987
LieutenantJames Flynn
Preceded byLee Dreyfus
Succeeded byTommy Thompson
Personal details
Anthony Scully Earl

(1936-04-12) April 12, 1936 (age 83)
Lansing, Michigan, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Jane Nemke Earl[1]
ProfessionProsecutor, attorney

Anthony Scully Earl (born April 12, 1936) is an American politician and a member of the Democratic party and served as the 41st Governor of Wisconsin from 1983 until 1987. He graduated from Michigan State University in 1958 and earned a J.D. from the University of Chicago. After four years in the Navy, including two years as a legal officer, Earl made his way to Wisconsin in 1965.[citation needed]

Early political career[edit]

Earl was first elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly in 1969, filling the seat vacated by David Obey, who was elected a member of the United States House of Representatives. In 1974, Earl left the Assembly to run for Wisconsin Attorney General, but was defeated in the primary by Bronson La Follette. Upon his defeat, then-Gov. Patrick Lucey named Earl secretary of the Department of Administration. Later, Earl became Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) where his list of accomplishments include addressing the State's surface water pollution.[citation needed]

Governor of Wisconsin[edit]

In 1982, Earl ran for governor when Lee S. Dreyfus unexpectedly declined to run for re-election, and soon the Wisconsin Democratic Party's hopes of reclaiming the governor's mansion became very real. As head of the state DNR, Earl was well-received as a staunch defender of the environment and a problem-solver. Earl used that reputation to defeat former Acting Governor Martin J. Schreiber (1977–79) in the Democratic primary for governor. Earl went on to defeat the Republican candidate, Terry Jodok Kohler, in a landslide victory.

However, Earl's tenure as governor was a challenge from the start. By the time he took office, Wisconsin was marred by a budget deficit of nearly $1 billion and a 12% unemployment rate. Earl signed legislation making the 5% sales tax permanent and also added a 10% surtax on state income tax which was later reduced. Once the state was fiscally sound, Earl passed initiatives improving the environment, education, and equal opportunity. Earl appointed Doris Hanson, the State's first and only female to hold the office of secretary of the Department of Administration and Howard Fuller, the first African-American appointed to a cabinet position heading the Department of Employee Relations. Due to disagreements over healthcare reform, prison staffing, wage freezes and other matters, Earl's relations with state labor soured and made his tenure as governor all the more complicated.

After restoring the state following one of the worst economic predicaments in state history, Governor Earl was ousted after one term. State Assembly Minority Leader Tommy Thompson, a Republican, staunchly opposed Earl's policies and was elected in 1986 to the first of four consecutive terms.

Post-gubernatorial career[edit]

Earl currently serves on the governing board of Common Cause in Wisconsin,[2] a non-partisan, non-profit citizen's lobby affiliated with national Common Cause. In 1990, Earl was elected to the Common Cause National Governing Board. CC/WI promotes campaign finance reform, ethics and lobby reform, open meetings laws and other issues concerning the promotion and maintenance accountable government. Earl is also on the board of the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation.[3]

In July 2004, Earl was recognized at the 12th Annual Outreach Awards for his acknowledgment of the needs of the gay and lesbian community during his term in office; he received the organization's Political Courage Award. He served on the Board of Directors of the American Transmission Company which assumed ownership, operation, planning, maintenance and monitoring of all the electrical transmission assets formerly owned by a number of Wisconsin utility companies, cooperatives and municipal utilities. He was formerly a partner in one of the largest law firms (more than 400 lawyers) in Wisconsin, Quarles and Brady.[4]

Electoral history[edit]

  • 1988 election for U.S. Senate (Democratic Primary)
  • 1986 election for governor
  • 1982 election for governor

See also[edit]

Common Cause in Wisconsin

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Doug Moe (2012-02-22). "Doug Moe: Former governor, new wife are 'giddy'". Wisconsin State Journal. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
  2. ^ JAMES WIGDERSON (2006-07-27). "Opinions: James Wigderson". Archived from the original on 2011-05-27. Retrieved 2008-09-14.
  3. ^ ANN RICHARDS (2008-09-02). "Two Mott grantees honored by American Bar Association". Archived from the original on 2008-10-14. Retrieved 2008-09-14.
  4. ^ "Madison Public Library Board Meeting Minutes" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-09-14.
Political offices
Preceded by
Lee S. Dreyfus
Governor of Wisconsin
Succeeded by
Tommy Thompson