Former Senate President Mike Ellis dies at 77

Former State Sen. Mike Ellis speaks in a 2013 interview with FOX 11. (WLUK file image)

MADISON (AP) -- Republican Mike Ellis, a blustery former state Senate president, has died.

Ellis, of Neenah, died Friday at his home. Ellis' brother, Mark, said Ellis appears to have died in his sleep. Ellis was 77.

Ellis represented the Fox Cities in the state Assembly from 1970 until 1980 and in the Senate from 1982 until 2014. He didn't run for re-election that year after an undercover video surfaced that showed him discussing setting up a super PAC, a violation of campaign laws.

He served as Senate president from 2011 to mid-2012 and again from 2013 to 2015. He made headlines in 2013 when he angrily shouted down Democrats and banged his gavel so hard he broke the base during an abortion debate.

Gov. Scott Walker released this statement:

Tonette and I are saddened to hear of the passing of Senator Mike Ellis. He was a giant in the Legislature and a bigger-than-life personality in Wisconsin politics. I enjoyed serving with him as a lawmaker and as governor. We were just on the radio together recently and I love his wit and passion. He will be missed by so many of us. Tonette and I send our prayers to his entire family.

State Sen. Roger Roth, R-Appleton, who currently holds Ellis' former 19th Senate district seat, released this statement:

I am deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Michael G. Ellis. Mike was a dedicated public servant, a highly-respected colleague, and a good friend. He was a tremendous mentor to me and I knew I could look to him for guidance on any issue. His breadth of knowledge and experience always kept him two steps ahead of everyone.
I will miss most the ability to pick up the phone to talk to him – to discuss a state issue or just to talk about what’s happening in the district. I will always appreciate the time we shared and the sound advice I received from him.
Someone once told me that Mike Ellis wasn’t just the leader of the Senate, he was the Senate. No matter what was happening in the Capitol, Mike knew about it and was already working it out. He has left a lasting impression on this state because of his strong personality and dedication to public service.
He was the epitome of putting his district first and politics second. He had no problem challenging his caucus and reaching across the aisle to fight for his constituents, with most conversations ending with a laugh.
His first bit of advice to me was, ‘Roth, take care of the sidewalks in your district first.’
He will be greatly missed by his fellow colleagues at the Capitol and his constituents here in the 19th Senate District. My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time.

Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Wisconsin, says Ellis was a good friend and will be missed.

Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Wisconsin, released this statement on his death Friday afternoon.

I am saddened to hear of Senator Ellis’s passing. While we did not always agree, I enjoyed working with him. He possessed a great institutional memory, had a very quick wit and was an extremely skilled debater. He was also a dedicated public servant whose impact on our state will not soon be forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers are with Senator Ellis’s family during this difficult time.

Republican Representative Dave Murphy says Ellis was more than a legislator to him.

Mike Ellis was a mentor, a friend and a constituent. I will miss him dearly. When I first joined the State Assembly, Mike welcomed me with open arms to the Fox Valley contingent. It was an incredible privilege to serve with him and learn from him in the legislature. Mike literally paved the way to the Fox Valley, by championing upgrades to I-41. I’m doing all I can to carry on this issue and ensure that Mike’s ‘Main Street of the Valley’ is everything our community deserves it to be. Just last month, Mike spoke at one of my events. He still had the same fire and drive that made him an unparalleled force in the legislature. It’s difficult to believe that he’s gone, as his colorful football metaphors are still ringing in my ears. He will be missed.

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