Sheriff: State Sen. Rick Gudex dies of self-inflicted gunshot wound

State Sen. Rick Gudex, R-Fond du Lac, listens to floor debate. (File photo courtesy of Gudex's office)

UPDATE: The Fond du Lac County Medical Examiner's Office says Gudex died of what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. His body was found just after 1:30 a.m. in the Town of Eden.

Investigators are waiting for toxicology test results, which typically take several weeks to be completed.


MADISON (AP) -- State Sen. Rick Gudex, a Republican from Fond du Lac, has died, the Fond du Lac County sheriff's department said. He was 48.

The medical examiner's office is investigating how Gudex died Wednesday, but the sheriff's department said foul play is not suspected.

Gov. Scott Walker and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle put politics aside Wednesday to remember him.

"Rick was a good man who served his community and state well, and he will be missed," Walker said in a statement. "Our hearts and our prayers go out to his wife Kim and their two children during this difficult time."

"Rick will be deeply missed by his Senate colleagues," said Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.

Gudex was elected to the Senate in 2012 and served in the position of president pro tempore last year, but was not seeking election to a second term. The race for his seat, including parts of Winnebago and Fond du Lac counties, is the most hotly contested in the Legislature this year. Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris is running against Republican Dan Feyen, of Fond du Lac. Republicans held a 19-14 advantage in the Senate this session.

Whoever replaces Gudex will begin their term in January. Given that the seat will be vacant for less than three months, and the election is so close, Walker will not order a special election to fill the seat, his spokesman Tom Evenson said.

Democratic Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling said she was "shocked and saddened," at news of his death, while Republican Sen. Leah Vukmir, of Brookfield, said the state has suffered a "tremendous loss."

"Rick was a true citizen legislator who came to work at the Capitol at a time when he felt his friends and neighbors needed him," Vukmir said. "The people of Fond du Lac and Winnebago counties always knew they had an advocate for them with Rick representing them in Madison."

Gudex, a former mayor of Mayville and member of the Fond du Lac Common Council, was married with two children.

He served in the Senate as chairman of the Economic Development and Commerce Committee; vice chairman of the Workforce Development, Public Works and Military Affairs Committee; and a member of the Universities and Technical Colleges Committee and the Joint Legislative Council.

He also served as a board member of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the state's economy development agency.

On a grey, dreary day, friends and colleagues of State Senator, Rick Gudex are mourning his death.

Thomas Herre, Interim President of the FDL Area Association of Commerce, said, "[It was a} shock to me to think how much good Rick Gudex could still do in this world. He died at 48, too young, way way too young."

State Sen. Luther Olsen, (R) Ripon, said, "I couldn't believe it. I thought oh my goodness, Rick what happened."

Gudex was born in Fond du Lac county in 1968, and spent nearly all his life there. He was elected to the Wisconsin State Senate in 2012.

Neighboring State Senator Luther Olsen says he thoroughly enjoyed his time serving with Gudex.

"He's going to be really missed because he was a great legislator, but he was a good friend. He was the guy that you could have a good discussion with."

Before Rick Gudex was elected to the State Senate, he was a civil servant to the city of Fond du Lac for many years.

Herre said, "Rick Gudex was a role model for public service."

Herre worked alongside Gudex for more than three years when Gudex was president of the Fond du Lac City Council.

"Rick was a good man in every respect. He was a delight to work for, he was a compassionate guy, he was in it for the right reasons," Herre said.

Gudex decided late last year not to seek re-election. But in the short four years he did spend in the legislature, his colleagues say he made a big impact.

State Sen. Roger Roth, (R) Appleton, said, "Being that our districts neighbored each other, in 2014 he provided me with a lot of assistance. He helped me out a great deal, mentored me. He was a great asset."

One thing all his friends and colleagues told me was that Gudex loved life.

Roth said, "I was absolutely shocked. It's just out of character for him, I totally didn't see him coming at all."

Olsen said, "It was fun being with Rick because he was genuine. There's not probably as many genuine people in politics as I would like there to be, and he was one."

And they agree whoever takes his seat next, has some big shoes to fill.

The Associated Press Contributed to this report.

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