The last two Wisconsin recalls ended in victory for two incumbent Democrats, leaving the Republicans with a 17-to-16 majority in the State Senate.
The Democrats prevailed handily last night — State Sen. Bob Wirch won in southeastern Wisconsin with 58 percent of the vote and Democratic Sen. Jim Holperin won in the northern part of the state with 55 percent.
The bottom line: Two Republicans were recalled from the Senate, while not one Democrat lost a recall race. Republican had hoped there would be a backlash against Democratic senators who left the state to prevent a quorum during the battles earlier this year over Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s proposals to strip away the collective-bargaining rights of public employee unions. That backlash did not materialize.
What’s clear is that the fight has moved public opinion the Democrats’ way, but not as fast or as dramatically as the Democrats had hoped. Wisconsin’s premier progressive political writer, John Nichols, noted that Walker’s opponents “have prevailed in the majority of recall elections and claimed the majority of votes cast in what many saw as a statewide referendum on Walker’s policies.”
Nichols acknowledged that the Democrats’ majority in these races was narrow — roughly 243,000 votes to 239,000 — but he added that “Walker won these districts in 2010, and . . . Republican Senate candidates easily won six of them in 2008.”
So will there be a recall campaign against Walker? My hunch is yes, but Walker seems to be trying to blunt this prospect by sounding uncharacteristically moderate. And at least one moderate Republican in the State Senate could give Democrats the ability to block any further legislation that veers too far right. This could lower the political temperature and that, paradoxically, could help Walker slip by a recall.
But anybody who thinks that the country is still in the same mood as it was in November 2010 should consult these results. In Wisconsin, there was a backlash against a right-wing that overreached. National polls suggest the same thing is happening to conservatives in the House of Representatives. Wisconsin is not a right-wing state, and this is not a right-wing country. That’s the message of recall summer.
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 17, 2011
Last night, Democrats in Wisconsin fell short by one in their effort to regain control of the Wisconsin State Senate.
While there is no question that the drive to pick up seats via the recall elections, staged in decidedly Republican districts, was a difficult undertaking – and there is some reason for Democrats to celebrate having won two seats in these GOP areas- there is no spinning out of the truth of this election.
The loss was both hard and significant on a number of levels.
Had the election been influenced by a low voter turnout – something that typically bodes ill for Democrats – that would have put a different face on the story.
But the turnout was spectacular. And, based on the results, Republicans were every bit as energized as Democrats.
GOP supporters had the backs of their sitting Senators, coming to the polls in big numbers to deliver the message that they too are as engaged and energized in the battle taking place in Wisconsin as the progressives and that is precisely what should have those who oppose the conservative agenda – in Wisconsin and throughout the nation – shaking in their boots.
The GOP was not just sending the message that they too know how to show up at the polls. They had a deeper message to send, one that was addressed to the unions. It was a message that came through loud and clear.
We’re (the voters) just not that into you.
The unions poured some $20 million dollars in the Wisconsin effort. For their money, they improved their minority in the State Senate by two votes but failed to come away with the majority required to put the breaks on Governor Scott Walker’s agenda.
That’s a lot of cash to spend for the return achieved.
While the other side also poured serious cash into the state, organizations like Club For Growth can, at the least, come away from the battle knowing that their agenda has not been stymied and, for as long as Governor Walker sits in the state house, they remain free and unfettered in their efforts to move their mission forward while pushing the state of Wisconsin – and the country – backward.
Now, the Wisconsin Democrats are left to determine their plans for the future, particularly with respect to the proposed recall effort against Governor Scott Walker.
The good news is that last night’s battles were fought on enemy territory while a statewide recall will bring the Democratic faithful throughout the state into play.
The bad news is that we’ve now learned that those who support the Walker agenda – and we’d best acknowledge that there are far more of them than Badger State Democrats might have wanted to realize- will not be sitting idly by when it comes to supporting an agenda of wiping out collective bargaining rights, cutting education and healthcare to the bone and disenfranchising those who are more likely to cast their vote for Democrats.
I suspect that the Walker recall will go forward – but that won’t happen until next year.
In the meantime, the attention turns to the ballot measure in Ohio seeking to repeal the anti-collective bargaining law passed by Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio legislature. The initiative will appear on the statewide ballot on November 8th and will permit all voting Ohioans to weigh in on how they feel about the effort to end unions in America. A “yes” would be a vote to retain the law while a “no” will be a vote to repeal.
If I were a Democrat in Wisconsin, I’d plan on spending the next few months in Ohio working hard for the repeal effort. If ‘just say no’ fails in the Ohio election, the writing you see on the wall will be the formal announcement of the tragic death of the union movement in the United States of America.
By: Rick Ungar, The Policy Page, Forbes, August 11, 2011
Timing is everything.
With the legislative recall campaigns designed to dispose of enough GOP senators to return the upper body of the Wisconsin legislature to Democratic control well underway, attention is now turning toward the future of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
Certainly, should the senate recall efforts turn out well for the Democrats, the excitement will be there to continue the process and take a shot at sending Scott Walker back home to Milwaukee.
The question is when to begin that effort.
Wisconsin law requires that once a petition drive to recall an elected official begins, those engaged in the effort have just 60 days to collect enough signatures to equal 25% of the total number of votes cast in the prior gubernatorial election.
That is a tall order- which is why many Wisconsin Democrats believe that they should get the Walker recall petitioning campaign going just as soon as the senate elections are wrapped up and while passions remain high.
In a normal situation, I think these folks would be right.
The problem is that any electoral strategy of this nature must rely on the election laws of the state when contemplating moves that work to the favor of one political party or the other. Unfortunately, the application of the law in Wisconsin – thanks to one of the most bizarre State Supreme Courts one can imagine – is anything but reliable.
Because of this unusual state of legal affairs, as we will see in a moment, getting the petition drive going sooner rather than later could result in a very unfortunate ending for those who would like to see Governor Walker go away.
First, an explanation of how things are supposed to work in the state.
Under Wisconsin election rules, once the recall petitions are turned in, election officials have 31 days to issue a “certificate of sufficiency” or “certificate of insufficiency”. Assuming the petitions are deemed sufficient, the Wisconsin Constitution requires that an election be scheduled on the first Tuesday six weeks following the certification of the election.
While the law appears completely clear that the only exception to the six week period would be where the party attempting the recall requires a primary to determine who their candidate will be- in which case the primary would be held six weeks after certification with the actual recall election to take place four weeks after completion of the primary- Wisconsin, as noted, does not appear to always operate to the letter of the law.
Thus, the Democratic concern is that were their recall petitions to be delivered for certification by the end of this year, or early in 2012, the GOP would work to move the statutory date when the recall election should take place to the date of the statewide election already scheduled for just a few weeks later.
That election happens to be the Republican presidential primary which is scheduled for the first week in April.
Obviously, if you’re looking to turn out Republican voters to support Governor Walker, the day of the Republican presidential primary would be about as good as it gets.
How, you might ask, could the GOP succeed in delaying an election that should take place no later than, say, the middle of February (assuming the petitions are in by the end of this year), until April?
Assuming that the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, a non- partisan organization that oversees Wisconsin elections, would set the date for a statewide recall election according to the Constitutional requirements, the Republicans would likely engage in any number of challenges for the purpose of delay, including a court action(s) based on the argument that it is not in the best interest of the state to hold an election in February when one is already scheduled for the first week of April. After all, having to pay for two statewide elections when both could be held within a few weeks of the statutory date seems an unnecessary waste of state monies that are in short supply.
Never mind that the early April election just happens to be the GOP presidential primary.
Where would such a court action eventually be decided?
In the Wisconsin Supreme Court – the astoundingly politicized body where the friends of Scott Walker maintain a narrow majority thanks, in no small part, to the now infamous Justice David Prosser.
Maybe the Court would follow the law – maybe they would not.
Thus, were the Democrats to proceed with the recall effort shortly after the conclusion of the senate recalls next month, they may well be placing the future of Scott Walker in the hands of the Wisconsin Supreme Court – the last place they would like the matter to be decided.
The other option would be to wait until after the GOP presidential primary and try to time the recall election to take place on November 6, 2012, the day of the national elections. The strategy would be to pick that day based on the expectation that many Wisconsin Democrats will turn up to cast their vote for President Obama.
Of course, it would be impossible to pull this off given the state GOP’s willingness to get involved with dirty tricks. Were the Democrats to time things contemplating no primary election to pick the Democratic candidate, we can count on the GOP to run a ‘fake’ Democrat, as they did in numerous senatorial recall elections, to force a primary to throw off the timing. Were the Democrats to anticipate a fake primary, and time the recall election for 10 weeks following certification rather than six, the GOP would, no doubt, stay away from such a primary, resulting in the recall election happening a month before the November general elections.
Clearly, the Wisconsin Democratic Party finds itself in a very tricky position and one created by the uncertainty that comes when the state’s top judicial body cannot be counted upon to simply follow the law as written.
And therein lies the moral to the story. When we can no longer trust our judiciary to rule with fairness and according to law, democracy suffers.
While I may hold a few opinions, I really don’t know when the Wisconsin Democrats should seek to hold the recall election.
What I do know is that the Section 12 of the Wisconsin Constitution, drafted in 1926 and amended in 1981, is explicit and completely clear on the subject of how recall elections are to be handled and that no provision is made to alter the prescribed date of a recall election taking into consideration any factors other than those set forth in the state Constitution.
For Wisconsin Republicans -and supporters of Governor Walker- who would seek the political benefits of holding the election to recall Scott Walker on the day of the Republican primary rather than the day prescribed by their Constitution, I hope these people will bear in mind the deeply troubling hypocrisy of holding themselves out as ardent supporters of the Constitution only to turn their back on their own founding document when it is politically expedient to do so.
Personally, I hope the Wisconsin Democrats proceed immediately with the effort to recall Governor Walker.
If the state’s highest court -and those who believe that the Constitution trumps all- are prepared to throw their own Constitution overboard to save their governor, let them pay the price of such lawlessness that will surely come due for them.
If a Constitutional crisis is what it will take for Wisconsin citizens to understand what is happening to their state, I would also encourage Wisconsin Democrats to bet on their Constitution and see if your opposition is willing to pay the price for the sake of political expediency.
Let’s find out if Wisconsin Republicans love Scott Walker more than they love and respect their own Constitution. Let’s find out if they are willing to completely disregard the state’s moral and legal center all for the purpose of rigging an election to give the Governor the best possible chance of succeeding.
If Wisconsin Republicans wish to support their governor by coming out on whatever the legal election date works out to be, that is a valid exercise of their rights as Wisconsin citizens. But they should be willing to do it in accordance with the law of the State.
By: Rick Ungar, The Policy Page, Forbes, July 20, 2011
The first in a series of recall elections, spurred by a contentious labor fight, got under way in Wisconsin Tuesday.
Six Democrats easily cruised to primary wins as expected, and will face Republican state senators who supported Gov. Scott Walker’s push to strip most public employees of collective bargaining rights in a general election match-up on Aug. 9. At stake is control of the narrowly divided, GOP-controlled chamber.
The unusual primaries Tuesday pitted Democratic candidates supported by the party against what news reports came to describe as “fake Democrats” — six candidates put forward by the GOP because recall races with only one challenger each would have bypassed the primary stage. Republicans therefore backed what they called “protest candidates,” allowing the incumbent GOP senators more time to campaign for the general election.
While outside groups campaigned on behalf of some of the Republican-sponsored challengers, those candidates themselves did not seriously campaign. The party-supported Democrats all won with comfortable margins — one as large as 40 percentage points — and only one race ended in single-digit margins. The recall contests set up by Tuesday’s results include Democratic state Rep. Jennifer Shilling vs. Republican state Sen. Dan Kapanke; Democratic state Rep. Fred Clark vs. state Republican Sen. Luther Olsen and Democratic state Rep. Sandy Pasch vs. Republican state Sen. Alberta Darling.
Wisconsin voters will go the polls again next Tuesday, when Green Bay Democratic state Sen. Dave Hansen will be the first legislator to face a recall general election since the state exploded in political protest in February. Republicans in two Democratic-held Senate districts will also face off that day in primaries, the winners of which will take on incumbents on Aug. 16. Unlike State Democrats are not running “fake Republicans” in an effort to push back recall dates.
By Aug. 16, nine state senators — six Republicans and three Democrats — will have faced recall elections.
Walker’s fight against public employees unions prompted Senate Democrats to flee the state in an effort to block a vote; protestors on both sides flooded the Capitol and a fiercely competitive state Supreme Court race shortly afterward snared national headlines. Republicans eventually managed to pass the law, and it was upheld by the state Supreme Court — but not before Wisconsin spent weeks at the center of a national political firestorm.
By: Dan Hirschhorn, Politico, July 12, 2011
At first glance, this will seem deep in the weeds, but this just in from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal constitutes a real break for Wisconsin Dems in their quest to take back the state senate in the recall wars:
State elections officials Monday took a Republican Assembly lawmaker off the ballot in a recall election against a Democratic senator.
The state Government Accountability Board voted unanimously to leave Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) off the ballot in the July 19 recall election for Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) in the 30th Senate District. The board found that Nygren fell just short of collecting the 400 valid nominating signatures needed to qualify for the ballot, finding he collected only 398 valid signatures.
The accountability board had initially found that Nygren had submitted 424 qualifying signatures from voters. But after a number of signatures were challenged by Democrats, the accountability board found that 26 of those were invalid.
In a nutshell, what happened here is that one of the Dem state senators that Dems and labor thought was genuinely vulnerable to a recall challenge — Dave Hansen — will now no longer face his toughest challenger. Once it has been established through signature gathering that a recall election will be held against a sitting official, a potential challenger only requires 400 signatures to get on the ballot in the recall elections. Hansen’s leading challenger, John Nygren, fell short and was disqualified.
Hansen is now all but certain to face a challenge from a far weaker candidate — David VanderLeest. According to Journal Sentinel columnist David Bice, this latest challenger has a court record that includes disorderly conduct.
Kelly Steele, a spokesman for the labor-backed We Are Wisconsin, was thrilled about the new development, claiming that VanderLeest’s “rap sheet reads like a directory of the Wisconsin state criminal code.”
Here’s why this is important. In order to take back the state senate, Dems need to net three recall wins. Six Republicans face recall battles; while only three Dems do. But now one of the three Dems may be far safer than previously thought, which means Dems may have an easier time netting three wins — and that Wisconsin GOPers may have a tougher time hanging onto the state senate.
By: Greg Sargent, The Washington Post Plum Line, June 27, 2011