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State Journal: Red-vested state chief

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In the wake of a heated electoral campaign for the Wisconsin state superintendency, Gov. Tommy G. Thompson has injected a new element of controversy into the position by naming a colorful and outspoken former Governor to fill the job on a temporary basis.

Mr. Thompson this month selected former Gov. Lee S. Dreyfus to serve as state schools chief until mid-July.

The interim appointment was necessary because the former superintendent of public instruction, Herbert J. Grover, has already resigned to take another administrative post in state government. But John Benson, who was elected this month to replace Mr. Grover, will be busy until summer as superintendent of the Marshall school district.

Mr. Benson defeated Linda Cross, a high school English teacher from Hortonville, in a contest marked by sharp debate over school choice and other issues.

Mr. Dreyfus, who served as Governor from 1979 to 1983, was known for his conservative views and blunt criticisms of the political establishment. Even more familiar to voters was the trademark red vest he always wore.

Before winning election as Governor, Mr. Dreyfus was the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point.

Since then, Mr. Dreyfus has become a professional motivational speaker with a national reputation for humorous and inspirational talks.

Although both he and Mr. Dreyfus are Republicans, Governor Thompson denied that his move was a partisan one aimed at forestalling moves by Mr. Benson, who was elected with the support of many Democrats.

"I'm sure you think there are sinister reasons,'' Governor Thompson told reporters. "There aren't any.''

Mr. Thompson noted, for example, that he believed Mr. Dreyfus opposes school-choice programs such as the state's pioneering voucher plan for low-income students in Milwaukee.

Another area of difference was brought to light by an interview given by Mr. Dreyfus to the Wisconsin State Journal, in which he said he would support changes in the state's binding-arbitration law, which bans teacher strikes--an idea Mr. Thompson opposes.

"Lee Sherman Dreyfus is certainly an independent, and not everything he says is going to reflect the Thompson administration position, and this certainly doesn't,'' the Governor was quoted as responding.--H.D.

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