In a move that casts further doubt on his intention to seek a third term in the state Assembly, Rep. Brett Hulsey (D-Madison) has signed the nomination papers for Mark Clear, a city of Madison alder who is running for Hulsey's seat. But Hulsey would not confirm Thursday whether that means he has decided against seeking re-election.
"I will announce next week," he said in a text message.
It is highly unusual for a candidate to sign an opponent's nomination papers.
"I've never heard of that happening before," says Mike Basford, chair of the Democratic Party of Dane County. "I would figure someone would sign their own nomination papers and make an opponent earn every signature they have to," Basford says. "It's all somewhat baffling."
Hulsey says he signed Clear's papers because he is the "better" of the two declared candidates for Assembly Seat 78. Lisa Subeck, also a Madison alder, is running for the seat.
By signing Clear's papers, Hulsey would not be able to sign his own nomination papers. Signers must certify that they have "not signed the nomination paper of any other candidate for the same office at this election."
Hulsey could still get the minimum 200 signatures needed -- absent his own -- to make it on the ballot for the fall 2014 general election.
Clear, who was Hulsey's former campaign treasurer, says he saw Hulsey at an event Wednesday night. "As a resident of the district I asked him if he would sign, and he agreed," says Clear.
Clear says he did not ask Hulsey whether he had made a decision about running again: "I decided not to probe further."
Hulsey, a former Dane County board supervisor, has had a rocky road since first being elected to the state Assembly in 2010. He irked his Democratic colleagues from the get-go with moves seemingly designed to attract media attention. Hulsey, for instance, was accused of grandstanding when he began holding his own press conference after Gov. Scott Walker addressed reporters on his embarrassing conversation with a prankster whom he thought was a wealthy supporter.
Hulsey's troubles intensified in July 2012 when news surfaced that he had pleaded no-contest to a disorderly conduct charge for flipping a 9-year-old boy off his inner tube while both were swimming at Spring Harbor Beach. Then in March 2013, Hulsey's legislative aide asked to be reassigned following an incident where she felt threatened by Hulsey's plan to use a box cutter to show her how to defend herself.
After that incident Hulsey told the Wisconsin State Journal that he was going through a particularly difficult time and that he was receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from childhood abuse.