Unions Fail to Take Back Wisconsin State Senate

There were weeks of build up.  People were calling it a referendum on Wisconsin governor Scott Walker.  They were calling it a referendum on Republicans.  A referendum on the Tea Party.  People said that the Republicans in Wisconsin had gone too far in passing collective bargaining legislation.  And then, after Tuesday, all was silent.

Wisconsin Recall

I hardly heard anything yesterday (Wednesday) about the election results.  I probably would not have heard anything had I not happened to see a headline in one of my Google Alerts yesterday morning from the Los Angeles Times entitled, “Wisconsin Republicans hold on to state Senate.”  Ironically, the Google alert was set up for “Illinois redistricting,” so how it returned a story about the Wisconsin election, I’ll never know.

For those of you who have not been following (as political nerds do) the Wisconsin recall elections, after the Republican-led state legislature passed “union-busting” legislation in March, the unions collected enough signatures to force recall elections for six state senators, hoping that they would be able to win at least 3 of the six seats and regain control of the Senate, halting governor Scott Walker’s agenda for the next few years.  Millions of dollars—reportedly over $30 million—were poured into these six campaigns.

There were six Republicans that were up for recall.  The recalls against two of them—Dan Kapanke and Randy Hopper—were successful.  However, the other four—Robert Cowles, Alberta Darling, Sheila Harsdorf, and Luther Olsen—won their elections, and will remain in the state Senate, giving the Republicans a 17-16 edge in that body.

This is the second time that the state and national unions have been rebuffed by voters.  In April, in a Supreme Court race, union-backed JoAnne Kloppenburg almost unseated Judge David Prosser.  The unions hoped that putting Kloppenburg in the Supreme Court would help them overturn the controversial legislation that had been passed by the legislature.  However, Kloppenburg was defeated by some 14,000 votes.

Next week, there will be another round of recall elections, this time against Democrats (in an odd turn of events, the recalls for Republicans and the recalls for Democrats were scheduled a week apart).  Two Democratic senators, Jim Holperin and Robert Wirch, will be up for recall, so the Republicans could gain another two seats in their majority, but that’s unlikely.  Holperin is very vulnerable (he only won his district with 51% of the vote in 2008, and Scott Walker won his district by 57% in 2010), but Wirch is not.

While there hasn’t been a huge amount of reaction, there has been some.  Here’s what Governor Walker had to say following the recall elections:

Ann Althouse, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School who writes a delightful blog that I read often, wrote a post yesterday entitled, “If Democrats had won 1 more seat in yesterday’s recalls, what expansive assertions would we be hearing today?”

Imagine if they’d gotten their majority. What gloating and grandiose claims would gush forth? They’d be merciless. The recall elections were a referendum on Walker! A referendum on the Tea Party! A victory for Obama and for taxing the pants off the rich! Especially the Koch Brothers!

Question: What did you hear about Tuesday’s Wisconsin recall elections?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KBY52OYW6XWECTCG3BUNJW6BU4 Broc

    Hey Bob,
    I wouldn’t agree that all was silent, perhaps because I am addicted to CNN, FOX, and MSNBC but there was plenty of coverage, MSNBC especially.  More importantly I will turn to your analysis of the results from Tuesday night.  While not getting the 3rd seat to take control of the State Senate was a definitely a loss for pro-union backers, but picking up 2 seats in the State Senate was still progress for them.  Also there was 1 Republican in the State Senate was voted with Democrats against the “union busting” bill a few months back. So perhaps when it comes to labor issues it is possible that pro-union could hold a majority in the Wisconsin state senate. 
    In addition to all the Senate recalls, Democrats in Wisconsin have signaled that if they do win of their recalls next week that they will push a recall of Gov. Walker.  His approvals rating have reached newer lows of late hitting 43% (http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/news/117418783.html?page=1 ) He was a noticeable no show as far as campaigning for these House Republicans because he has become such a negative and polarizing figure in Wisconsin …Just another thing to keep an eye on. 
    As for Gov. Walker’s comments, most of what he said was true in his mind and nowhere else.  People absolutely care about the process of how you get to end results. He talks about how other states have laid off state employees, like his state hasn’t laid off government workers.  He projects that local schools will “fair better” that has yet to be decided but with less money to schools that becomes harder to do, not impossible but harder. He talks about how the federal government has had trouble lately, well that is what happens with divided government and Congresspeople who do not compromise. Gov. Walker was able to pass his legislation because he steam rolled over the democrats.  Gov. Walker want to claim “outside influences” when it was actually Republican groups which dumped more money for campaigning into Wisconsin at a 2:1 ratio.  Lastly, Gov. Walker talking about anything “bipartisan” makes me laugh.  He was so willing to steam roll over democrats that they literally skipped town to try and slow things down.  Gov. Walker has 57% disapproval rating in his own state; I think that speaks for itself. 

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    I live in Wisconsin, voted for Kapanke, and my answer is “nothing.” Until I read your article, I didn’t even know there was a recall much less know who won. A whole lot of expense and bother over nothing! Nothing!!!

    • http://bobewoldt.com Robert Ewoldt

      I don’t think this recall election was on the radar of anyone but the most geeky poli-wonks.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Broc-Middleton/1320338877 Broc Middleton

        Thanks, so I guess I’m a geeky poli-wonk……lol

        • http://bobewoldt.com Robert Ewoldt

          You and me, both!