FOXCONN DEBATE-05-08172017154244 (copy)

Rep. Peter Barca spoke during the debate over a bill to lure tech manufacturer Foxconn to Wisconsin in August. Barca stepped down as the Assembly minority leader Thursday.

PHOTO BY SAIYNA BASHIR

Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, will step down as minority leader of the Wisconsin Assembly at the end of the month, he announced in a statement Thursday evening.

Barca, 62, was first chosen to lead Assembly Democrats in 2011, following the conservative wave that ushered in Gov. Scott Walker and a strong Republican majority in both legislative chambers.

The minority party re-elected him to the post in November, but not without some evident tension. No Democrats challenged him at the time, but Rep. Jonathan Brostoff, D-Milwaukee, objected to electing him by unanimous consent.

The 2016 election gave Republicans a 64-35 majority in the Assembly, the largest edge they have had since 1957.

Democrats met in closed caucus on Thursday. 

"This afternoon I made the very difficult decision to step down as leader of the Assembly Democrats following deliberate, thoughtful discussions. I am grateful to my colleagues for their support over the last seven years," Barca said in a statement. 

Barca said he will continue his effort to "do what is right for Wisconsin families and workers," with greater focus on his district in southeastern Wisconsin.

The veteran lawmaker recently provoked the ire of some members of his caucus over his approach to an Assembly vote on a $3 billion incentive package for the Taiwanese manufacturing company Foxconn. 

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Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, sent an email to Assembly Democrats accusing Barca of failing "on all accounts" by voting for the bill and publicly supporting it, the Associated Press reported last month. The company plans to build a $10 billion LCD panel manufacturing facility in or near Barca's district, and he was one of three Democrats to vote for the incentive package

Barca was first elected to the state Assembly in 1985 and resigned his seat in 1993 after being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He served in Congress until 1995, losing an election to Republican Mark Neumann. He returned to the state Assembly in 2008.

No announcement has been made regarding the election of a new minority leader. 

"We ended our discussion this afternoon with a very constructive strategy session, and we are very focused on the work we must do to improve Gov. Walker's short-sighted budget. We are well prepared for the work ahead," Barca said in a statement.

Several Democratic lawmakers did not respond to messages seeking comment.

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Jessie Opoien covers state government and politics for the Capital Times. She joined the Cap Times in 2013 and has also covered Madison life, race relations, culture and music. She has also covered education and politics for the Oshkosh Northwestern.