Hulsey, a state representative from Madison who is white, came into the state Capitol press room on Thursday to show off a hood he says he made with his daughter's sewing machine using curtain material he purchased for $1.
"It's a Wisconsin Republican Party hat," Hulsey said. "And people can interpret it any way they want."
When asked whether he was serious, trying to be funny or provocative, Hulsey answered: "All of the above."
Hulsey, a two-term state representative, is running a long-shot campaign for the Democratic nomination against the better-funded and more broadly supported candidate Mary Burke. She is a former state commerce secretary and Trek Bicycle Corp. executive. Her campaign spokesman Joe Zepecki called Hulsey's latest stunt "completely unacceptable and totally inappropriate."
Hulsey has a history of outlandish behavior.
Hulsey contemplated bringing a musket onto the Assembly floor to call attention to GOP policies, like legalizing carrying concealed weapons, that he opposed. Last year, one of his legislative staffers told police she feared for her safety because he brought a box-cutter to the office.
In 2012, Hulsey pleaded no contest to a disorderly conduct citation after police accused him of flipping a 9-year-old boy off an inner tube at a Madison beach and taking pictures of the child. Hulsey told police he just walked by the boy and didn't "touch or molest him." He also said he needed to point his camera toward the boy in order to get a shot of a sailboat and the sunset.
Democrats and Republicans alike were quick to distance themselves from Hulsey's latest antics.
"We take serious issue with the policies pursued by Republicans that disproportionately affect communities of color, but this type of behavior has no place in the public dialogue," said state Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate.
Wisconsin Republican Party executive director Joe Fadness called Hulsey's plan to hand out the hoods a "reprehensible, vile stunt" that should outrage everyone.
Hulsey said he was trying to highlight what he called racist Republican policies to require photo identification at the polls, a law struck down in federal court on Tuesday as unconstitutional because of how it would affect minorities, passage of a law making it more difficult to force schools to remove American Indian mascots and cuts to public school funding.
"They need to own up to their racism, which is what I am trying to highlight," Hulsey said.