Brooks says he ‘owns mistake’ but won’t resign

Representative who stepped down from leadership role because of comments says his brash style made him a target

Rep. Rob Brooks, R-Saukville.
By 
BILL SCHANEN IV
Ozaukee Press staff

State Rep. Rob Brooks of Saukville said this week he takes responsibility for offensive comments he made to three female colleagues in July, and while he stepped down as assistant majority leader after those comments were reported last week, he will not resign from office as Gov. Scott Walker called on him to do. 

Nor will Brooks, an outspoken politician who as a junior Ozaukee County supervisor was elected chairman of the board then rapidly rose through the ranks of the Republican leadership after being elected to the Assembly in 2014, change his sometimes brash style that he said has made him a target among some in his own party.

“I own my mistake,” he said in an interview Monday. “I’m not blaming this on the person who leaked it or anyone else.

“I can be bold and brash, and that can be effective, but it can also get you into trouble. The fact is, when you take a stand, you become a target, and sometimes even within your own party.”

It was reported last week that in July, after a Republican caucus in Wisconsin Dells, Brooks made sexual and racist remarks to three female legislators at a restaurant. He reportedly said he would buy drinks for everyone except Rep. Jessie Rodriguez of Oak Creek because she is Hispanic and made sexual comments to Reps. Cindi Duchow of Delafield and Amy Loudenbeck of Clinton.

The female legislators reported his comments to Assembly Chief Clerk Patrick Fuller soon after the incident and Brooks later apologized.

Brooks declined to elaborate on his comments this week, referring instead to a statement he released last week that read, “I regret that I made some stupid comments while under the influence of alcohol after our caucus in the Dells. I take full responsibility for my behavior and have apologized for my actions. I am ready to move on from this incident and fully support and will adhere to the Assembly policies to maintain a safe workplace for legislators and staff.”

Walker was quick to condemn the comments Brooks made in July.

“Rep. Brooks’ comments are offensive and disrespectful,” the governor tweeted last week. “They have no place in our society and are inconsistent with the high standards that must be held by those in public office. He should resign from office, period.”

But in a joint statement, Duchow, Loudenbeck and Rodriguez said Brooks’ decision to resign his leadership position in the Assembly “is beyond what we expected or even wanted.”

“Rep. Brooks’ comments were out of line in July and we made our views immediately known to him and the Assembly chief clerk. We were satisfied with the Assembly response this summer and have fully accepted Rep. Brooks’ apology. While we respect his decision to resign his leadership position and appreciate the seriousness with which he takes the issue, it is beyond what we expected or event wanted. We have put this incident behind us,” they wrote.

Brooks said in an interview he stepped down as assistant majority leader because “it came down to what was in the best interest of our caucus.”

It will be up to voters in November, Brooks said, to decide whether he remains in office and his party to determine whether he will return to a leadership role in the Assembly. 

“My constituents will have the opportunity to judge my performance in November, and the party leadership will have the same opportunity,” he said.

Brooks, who served 12 years on the Ozaukee County Board, nine of them as chairman, before being elected to the Assembly in 2014, is running against Democrat Chris Rahlf of Cedarburg.

“Sober or drunk, it’s not OK to make these remarks,” Rahlf said in a statement. “I’m glad the women involved are satisfied that the correct course of action was taken. We must keep striving for a society where everyone is respected all the time.”

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