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Watch now: Mason says he'd rather go to jail than sit for 'secret interview' with Gableman

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Like the mayors of Green Bay and Madison before him, Racine Mayor Cory Mason said Sunday he would prefer to be jailed than testify behind closed doors in what he called a “secret interview” for the ongoing election probe ordered by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and conducted by former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman.

Gableman last week called for several officials, including Mason and Wisconsin Elections Commission Chair Ann Jacobs, to be jailed for refusing to sit for the behind-closed-doors interviews for which they have been subpoenaed.

In December, Gableman demanded that Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich and Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway be jailed. He later rescinded the demand.

In an interview with WISN-TV’s “UpFront“ on Sunday, Mason told anchor Adrienne Pedersen “It’s not entirely clear to me what exactly they (investigators) are looking for. But again, we’re happy to answer questions in public, in the light of day, in front of the Elections Commission.

“But this is not a criminal probe; this is a project of the Assembly Elections Committee,” Mason continued. “If they want to hear from me, I think they should do it in public so that the press and the public have the opportunity to see what exactly is going on in here.”

He later added: “I certainly don’t want to go to jail, but if it’s something I would have to do to defend democracy and stand up for the clerks and all the poll workers who did all that hard work, it’s certainly something I would do.”

In the past 13 months, the Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee — which is separate from the Gableman investigation — has heard from several conspiracy theorists and others who doubt the results of the 2020 election, but interviewed just one actual Wisconsin elections official, WEC Administrator Meagan Wolfe.

“I don’t think we can set up a precedent where we let unelected officials threaten elected officials, and clerks and election officials charged with safely conducting elections, with jail time if they can’t have their secret investigation,” Mason said. “That’s not how democracy works, right? That’s not what you do in a free and fair democracy ... if you have questions, the Assembly Committee should ask them in public ...

“Let’s do this in the light of day.”

Specifically, officials from the City of Racine and Wisconsin’s other four most populous cities — Kenosha, Green Bay, Madison and Milwaukee — have come into the Gableman probe’s crosshairs, as those cities received the lion’s share of private funding for the purposes of conducting safe elections and getting out the vote in 2020. Courts have repeatedly affirmed this was legal, although many Republicans have stated they wish it hadn’t been and are now moving to change the law.

“I can’t believe that, for whatever reason, the work we did to make it safe for people to vote during a pandemic is now leading to me and other elected officials being threatened for jail time if we won’t go to a secret interview,” Mason said.

Of the elections officials targeted by Gableman, Mason said: “They don’t deserve subpoenas. They deserve medals.”

Mason noted that almost the entire city election budget was spent to conduct the April 2020 election, and that the grants Racine received prevented a budget problem.

When pressed by WISN’s Pedersen, he said he likely would not be opposed to seeking such grants again, in the same way the city continues to seek grants for other operations, such as supporting first responders.

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