Tony Earl served as the governor of Wisconsin during the 1980s. A member of the Democratic Party, some have described him as a progressive. At the same time, others would seem to consider him as more of a moderate.

For his part, Earl seemed to think of himself as more of the latter. He was a Cabinet member for three governors, two Democrats, and one Republican. In recent years, he openly mourned the decreasing bipartisanship in American politics. Current Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers recently announced that Earl's health had declined. Not very long after, Earl would pass on.

They died on February 23, 2023

Tony Earl has passed away, reported the Associated Press and ABC. He was at the UW Health University Hospital at the time. Earl had been receiving treatment there after a stroke a few days prior. He was 86.

Earl was elected governor in 1982. Among his campaigners was future U.S. Representative Mark Pocan. That year, Republican incumbent Lee S. Dreyfus was not running for re-election. Earl had been the secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in the Dreyfus administration. He won the Democratic nomination in a primary battle that included former Governor Martin J. Schreiber. Earl had also been the Wisconsin DNR secretary.

In the general election, the Republican nominee would be Terry Kohler.

The Kohler name is a well-known one in Wisconsin. Terry Kohler's father and grandfather had both served as governor. The latter was also a highly-decorated Naval officer in World War II. His great-grandfather founded the manufacturing powerhouse Kohler Co. The municipality in eastern Wisconsin that the company is based in is named after the company.

Earl would defeat Kohler by a significant margin in the general election. Shortly into his gubernatorial term, Earl implemented several tax increases. He was followed by initiatives focused on environmentalism, education, and equality. However, he also clashed with labor unions, and his economic policies failed to flourish as he hoped.

In 1986, Earl was defeated for re-election by Republican Tommy Thompson. Thompson was the minority leader of the Wisconsin State Assembly. He would later serve as the United States health and human services secretary. Despite being political opponents, Earl and Thompson would be good friends afterward. He was reportedly joking that they each could've flip-flopped their party affiliations. "We both were Wisconsinites first and foremost," Thompson would say.

Later ran for the United States Senate

In 1988, incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator and Senate Banking Committee Chairman William Proxmire were not running for re-election. Tony Earl entered the Democratic primary in the race to succeed him. He finished as the runner-up to Herb Kohl.

His family had founded the famed department store chain Kohl's, based in the Milwaukee region in Brookfield. He'd also been chairman of the state chapter of the Democratic Party and was the owner of the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks. Kohl eventually chaired the Senate Aging Committee and vice-chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee. Others in the primary field included National Football League Players Association Executive Director Ed Garvey. As well as Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette. A member of arguably the state's most iconic political dynasty.

It was not Earl's first time in a primary race with a La Follette. In 1974, he was a candidate in the Democratic primary for attorney general of Wisconsin.

He fell short of former Attorney General Bronson La Follette, who'd win the general election.

Earl's first legislative run was a victorious one in 1969. It was a special election for a seat in the Wisconsin State Assembly. A center had opened after Dave Obey was elected to the United States House of Representatives. Of which he later chaired its powerful Committee on Appropriations. Earl won two more Assembly races afterward.

In 1975, Governor Patrick Lucey appointed him as the secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Administration. Later that year, Lucey made him his DNR secretary.

Was an attorney by trade

Tony Earl was born in St. Ignace on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He would graduate from Michigan State University, followed by the University of Chicago.

Afterward, he served in the United States Navy.

Earl was a legal officer for part of his Navy tenure. After retiring from the military, he settled in Wausau in central Wisconsin. He became an assistant district attorney of Marathon County. Eventually, Earl was named the city attorney of Wausau.