Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wisconsin State Senate Republicans Maintain Majority After Union-Backed Recall Challenge

In a series of elections that many viewed as a referendum on Gov. Scott Walker and his policies towards public employee unions, four out of six incumbent Republican state senators successfully held off Democrat challengers in Wisconsin on Tuesday night.
The wave of recall elections is unparalleled in the nation's history. Before this year, there had been just four recall elections of Wisconsin lawmakers. Two incumbents were recalled, while two survived the efforts. One of those who won his recall election was Holperin, who was in the Assembly in 1990 when a recall effort was launched because of his stance on Indian fishing rights.
After pouring millions of dollars into Tuesday night's recall elections- mostly from public employee unions like the SEIU or AFSCME- union backed Democrat candidates needed to unseat at least three of the incumbent republicans in order to gain control of the State Senate.

Incumbents Dan Kapanke (32nd District) and Randy Hopper (18th District) lost their respective bids to stay in office Tuesday night, with the 32nd going to Jennifer Shilling and the 18th going to Jessica King. However, the last race of the night to be called was between GOP incumbent Alberta Darling and Democrat challenger Sandra Pasch. Although Pasch got out to an early lead, Darling surged past her as the night went on and currently enjoys a 54%/46% advantage with 99% of the precincts reporting.

So after all the protests and union money spent on circulating petitions and political ads, the best the unions could do is come up one seat short of taking away the GOP majority in the Wisconsin state senate. And there's a chance that the Democrat and Union's modest gains could be undone in a week's time, as there are two additional recall elections scheduled for next week. Democrat state senators Robert Wirch (22nd District) and Jim Holperin (12th district) face Republican challengers after fleeing the state with the rest of the senate Democrats earlier this year, a tactic used to prevent the body from reaching a quorum when Gov. Walker's union bill was supposed to go before state senators. Even if both Wirch and Holperin manage to survive their recall challenges, the GOP would still maintain a narrow majority in the state senate.

While many observers believe that the recalls could serve as a barometer for the national electoral mood heading into 2012. However, the Democrats coming up short in trying to wrest power away from the GOP majority in the state senate has no doubt undercut much of the momentum behind a campaign to recall Gov. Walker. Walker cannot be recalled until he has been in office for a year, so those supporting a recall campaign will have to wait until at least January 2012.

In a little over 6 months under the Walker administration, the state of Wisconsin has created 13,000 private sector jobs while cities like Milwaukee are expected to save as much as $25 million annually under the governor's controversial budget repair bill.

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