After Recall Rumble, Darling Comes Out on Top in 8th Senate District

GOP incumbent Darling pulled out an eight-point victory over Democrat Pasch in costly election.

It took until the early morning hours Wednesday, but Republican state Sen. Alberta Darling successfully defended her 8th Senate District seat from Democratic challenger Rep. Sandy Pasch by posting an eight-point victory in a key recall election.

“There were so many guns pointed at my back because I helped lead the fight to get the state back on track,” Darling told supporters at her victory party in Thiensville.

Darling announced her victory early at about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday. She joined three other Republican senators who also fought off recall challenges around the state. Final, unofficial totals compiled by the Associated Press show Darling collected 39,471 votes, or 54 percent, and Pasch tallied 34,096 votes, or 46 percent.

“In 2010, voters sent a strong message that they are tired of massive deficits, massive tax hikes, taxes and job loss,” Darling said in her victory statement. “They are sending the same message loud and clear tonight. The days of kicking the can down the road are over in our state. The voters have spoken once and for all.”

Of the six recall elections Tuesday, the Pasch-Darling race was the last one to be decided — and political observers from around the country watched as the results slowly came in.

The Democrats needed to pickup at least three seats Tuesday in order to have a chance of taking control of the state Senate. Republican senators Robert Cowles, Luther Olsen and Sheila Harsdorf successfully defended their seats, while Democrats picked up two seats with victories from Jessica King and Jennifer Shilling.

That meant the Democrats' only hope of getting control of the Senate rested on a Pasch victory.

In the race, Darling took an early lead and was overcome by Pasch, but the scales finally tipped in the incumbent’s favor when results from Menomonee Falls came in. In that Republican stronghold, Darling picked up close to 4,500 votes, winning in that village by a 2-to-1 margin.

Mischief in Waukesha County?

Among the last results to come in were from Menomonee Falls in Waukesha County, where a ballot miscount in the April state Supreme Court race prompted an investigation into Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus’ office. When results were slow to come in Tuesday night, Democratic Party of Wisconsin spokesman Graeme Zielinski called a press conference and accused Nickolaus, a former Republican aide, of tampering with the ballots in this election.

In fact, even though Pasch was losing by thousands of votes and had virtually no chance of winning, she left her campaign party in Brown Deer without conceding the race.

However, Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Mike Tate issued a statement earlier Wednesday saying the party would not pursue any concerns about possible wrongdoing.

"On Tuesday night, Wisconsin spoke loud and clear with the recall of two entrenched Republicans. This is an accomplishment of historic proportions that I do not wish to be overshadowed by statements regarding results in the 8th Senate District,” Tate said in a statement. “Though we believe that Sandy Pasch was able to battle Alberta Darling to a virtual tie, on her turf, we will not pursue questions of irregularities."

Ground game a key to victory

Darling gave a lot of credit to her campaign manager, Andrew Davis, and his staff for running one of the most effective ground games in the state. Davis, who has been organizing the campaign for months, said he knew all along they had the right strategy.

“We knew it was all about turnout, and you can do as many forums and debates as you want, but it’s one-on-one voter contact between Alberta and the voter, and that’s what won this race,” Andrew Davis said. “She got out there and defended this budget and reforms in the budget…and every week people learned more and more that this was working.”  

Gov. Scott Walker hailed the victory of Darling and other Republicans, saying that the message from voters is clear.

“Last November, the voters sent a message that they wanted fiscal responsibility and a focus on jobs,” the Republican governor said in a statement. “In our first months in office, we balanced a $3.6 billion deficit and our state created 39,000 new jobs. It's clear the voters also want us to work together to grow jobs and improve our state.”

Recall organizer: 'We changed things'

The recall election was sparked by 30,000 residents signing petitions to recall Darling. That movement was spearheaded by Shorewood resident Kristopher Rowe, who said Tuesday that he saw more energy in this movement than when he volunteered with President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

“No matter what happens tonight, we changed things,” Rowe said. “We made history. They have to listen to us now.”

Some Republican voters at the polls Tuesday said they thought the recall election was unnecessary and a waste of taxpayer dollars. One of those voters was Jim Bowen, of Whitefish Bay.

“If people don’t like the way somebody votes on one vote, I think we should be more sensitive to waiting for election cycles. That’s what they’re there for,” he said. “These are expensive, and I think the money should be spent in a better way.”

While limitations on collective bargaining rights sparked the recall movement that collected 30,000 signatures and forced the election, the issue took a back seat in the advertisements put out by Pasch’s campaign and the third-party groups that supported her and attacked Darling for cuts to education, health care and other items in Walker’s budget.

Some Democratic voters remained upset over collective bargaining as they cast their ballots for Pasch Tuesday.

“As a retired school teacher, I’m appalled by what’s happening and what could happen without collective bargaining,” said one Whitefish Bay voter who asked to remain anonymous.

On the other side of the fence, a conservative said he voted for Darling because she supported the budget repair bill that limited collective bargaining rights.

“I don’t want the unions to run our state because the unions are corrupt,” said the Whitefish Bay voter, who did not want to be named.

Darling’s support came mostly from the west end of the district, such as Menomonee Falls, Germantown, as well as other North Shore communities, like Mequon and Thiensville.

"I voted for Alberta Darling, as I have in the past because I feel spending is out of control and I believe in what she's saying. I want to keep that Republican seat," said Lynn Miller of Germantown.

Pasch won in Shorewood, Whitefish Bay, Milwaukee, Glendale, Brown Deer, Fox Point and Bayside.

At the Cahill Park polling center in Whitefish Bay, Jane Collins said she voted for Darling in the past election, but on Tuesday, she voted for Pasch.

“When Darling seemed to fall in lock step with Walker’s agenda, I just decided that she no longer is looking out for the individuals. She is looking out for the party. It’s very disappointing," she said. “You can go to the parade and wave and shake hands all you want, but it doesn’t mean you are listening to the people.”

The race drew heavy media coverage and $8 million in campaign spending. Overall, more than $30 million was spent in all nine recall elections in the state.

Turnout in Milwaukee a problem for Pasch

Voters in the Democratic stronghold of Milwaukee didn’t show up like they have in past elections.  In Tuesday’s election there were 5,912 votes case there, with 4,666 going to Pasch. The total mimics the April Supreme court race where 4,528 votes were cast, with candidate JoAnne Kloppenburg collecting 3,120 votes.

However, in the 2010 gubernatorial race there were 6,760 votes cast in the district, with 5,128 going to Democrat Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. And 10,361 votes were cast in the 2008 presidential election, when then U.S. Sen. Barack Obama took 8,525 votes.

Pasch also easily carried another stronghold in Shorewood where 4,582 of the 6,212  votes cast went for her. The turnout was slightly higher than the Supreme Court race total of 5,532 votes cast, but short of the 6,781 votes tallied in the governor’s race and 8,817 cast in the 2008 presidential election.

Darling also saw some declines in turnout in areas that staunchly support her. In Tuesday’s race there were 8,350 votes cast in Germantown with 6,030 going to Darling. That’s up from the 6,105 votes cast in the Supreme Court race where Justice David Prosser took 4,595 of those, but down from the 9,419 cast in the 2010 gubernatorial race and down from the 12,051 votes cast in the 2008 presidential election.

Menomonee Falls continued to be a strong district for Darling, but Democrats had a better performance there than in recent elections. Pasch collected 34 percent of the 11,663 votes cast there Tuesday.  In comparison, Kloppenburg  only got 28 percent of the vote in April and Barrett got 31 percent of the vote last year.

It was the best result for a Democrat in the Falls since Obama took 39 percent of the vote in 2008.

Fox Point is continuing its trend of swinging  left to right politically the past several election cycles, after Pasch eked out a victory there Tuesday. Of the 3,526 votes cast in that municipality, Pasch picked up 1,843 votes to Darling’s  1,683 votes. Prosser won Fox Point with 1,537 votes out of 2,979 cast there. The district swung Democrat in the 2010 governor’s race and the 2008 presidential race.

Denise Du Vernay August 12, 2011 at 03:46 PM
Damn good question, Dee! How do Republicans like Walker convince people to vote against their best interests? I understand that he lied during the campaign, but at this point, people know what he's all about (himself and his cronies) so why would anyone who isn't a crony support him now? Are people too stubborn to admit they were snowed? I do partially blame Dems. They don't play dirty. Certainly, Dems knew about, say, the circumstances surrounding Walker's dismissal from Marquette, yet they didn't play it up (just like how California Dems knew about Schwarzenegger's affair and child). If it were a Dem who cheated in college, the GOP would have a blast with it!
Denise Du Vernay August 12, 2011 at 03:47 PM
I don't see how two people losing their jobs has anything to do with "siding with Walker." It just kind of sounds like two people lost their jobs.
Lyle Ruble August 12, 2011 at 04:02 PM
@CowDung...I am well aware of the mistakes of the Indian Boarding Schools. What I think would work is to have the children stay in the boarding school throughout the week and go home on the weekends. I would also suggest that school uniforms would be mandatory. It might also be that they would not enter the boarding school until the 4th grade and K-3 would remain as it is. Just trying to think outside the box.
Al Breeck August 12, 2011 at 04:07 PM
I still can't believe Walker was elected after DESTROYING Milwaukee County. http://scottwalkerwatch.com/tools/walkers-abuse-of-power-early-years/#high_6
Lyle Ruble August 12, 2011 at 04:26 PM
@Denise Du Vernay...First never over estimate the intelligence of the electorate. We have a very strong populist movement in play. They are fairly well anti-intellectual and see the educated to be elites who lack any common sense. For many they see someone like the governor as one of them. His dropping out of college scores very low on their radar. You look out into rural Wisconsin and the college degree is probably not their most important concern. For many of the populists, their only contact with the educated is their local educators. Teachers and public employees have been scape goated to the point where they are openly derided and disrespected. The consistent message is that school teachers have been sucking on the collective teat and draining the communities dry by their high salaries and unrealistic benefit packages. You have to remember that in most communities, education is the single largest expenditure. To answer the question of why people would vote against their own self interest; it's simple, they have been inundated with the populist message and the opposition has not struck the chord with them to get them to listen to our message. We have to keep things simple.
Randy1949 August 12, 2011 at 04:31 PM
He promised jobs and a balanced budget. What's not to like about that? He just wasn't completely candid about how he meant to accomplish it. About the abuse of power -- I didn't live in Milwaukee County, and while I heard rumblings, I didn't know the full story. I doubt the rest of the state did either. Did Walker carry Milwaukee County in the 2010 election?
CowDung August 12, 2011 at 04:48 PM
Denise: What exactly are the 'circumstances' that you refer to regarding Walker's alleged 'dismissal' from Marquette? Ever consider that the reason the Dems don't bring it up is that it really isn't true? Which of my 'best interests' am I actually voting against when I support Scott Walker? I don't want to have to pay more taxes to fund high speed rail that nobody is going to use. I like the idea of a balanced budget that doesn't turn cuts at the state level into tax increases at the local level. Despite the overdramatic claims to the contrary, Walker's "draconian" budget cuts aren't doubling our class sizes and laying off bunches of teachers. In addition, I think that Ryan's plan is a great starting point for the much needed reform of Medicare. Maybe we on the right just prefer politicians that don't distort the facts...
Lyle Ruble August 12, 2011 at 04:48 PM
@Randy1949...He did not carry Milwaukee County. Those of us who live in Milwaukee County saw Scott Walker as an inept chief executive and an extreme ideologue. If you look at his record, he continually attempted to cut services, he created a huge problem with Milwaukee Mental Health, and did practically nothing to attract business into the county. The blame for not getting his record out rests entirely with the Democratic Party. I don't think they took him seriously and did not drive home the message on how destructive he had been to Milwaukee County. Of course, hindsight is 20/20.
Randy1949 August 12, 2011 at 04:49 PM
I'm not sure boarding school would work, Lyle. I firmly believe that intelligence, intellectual curiosity, and that quality known as 'conscience' are laid down in the first few years of life. It would be very hard to instill them at age eight or older. In addition, I would react very badly to any government taking my children to live away from me 'for their own good' and I daresay that parents of the City of Milwaukee are no different. Of course, my son got the balance of his education at home. I had to correct his first double negative after he learned it in school.
Bob McBride August 12, 2011 at 05:00 PM
I can't believe Tom Ament was, for a moment, seriously contemplating attempting to regain the position after Walker moved on to Governor. If anyone is responsible for "DESTROYING" Milwaukee County, it's that clown and his cronies. We're still paying for his "mistakes" and will be for years to come.
Lyle Ruble August 12, 2011 at 05:01 PM
@CowDung...Walker's departure from Marquette has always been a mystery. He hasn't talked openly about it and the school's administration hasn't talked either. So we're left with uncertainty. By not voting for Walker you would be voting against your own self-interest. You are a young professional who enjoys an upper middle class lifestyle. Most of the 8th State Senate District are very much like your profile; middle to higher income status, better educated, and socially insulated from the problems of the lower classes. The advent of the Walker Administration promises you and others in your circumstances, the end of continuing tax increases. This is all a plus for you. You have clearly voted your pocket book and still remain insulated from the negative consequences his policies will create.
Jay Sykes August 12, 2011 at 05:21 PM
Scott Walker for Postmaster General?
CowDung August 12, 2011 at 06:11 PM
Yes, Walker's departure from Marquette is a mystery--which means that it would be a clear distortion of fact to make the claim that he was dismissed for cheating. I guess I really don't see how Walker's policies are so terrible for anyone as compared to the alternative. Walker cut the Medicare growth budget by $500 million, Doyle cut it by $600 million--not much difference aside from the volume of the complainers. While vouchers aren't perfect, I see them as better than blindly throwing more money at the failing public school systems in the state. The self proclaimed 'progressives' in the Democratic party really don't seem to be willing to try anything new and instead declare class warfare against everyone that isn't poor or a union member. Perhaps I am isolated, but the way I see it, only one party is actually taking real steps toward addressing the problems of our society...
Bob McBride August 12, 2011 at 06:13 PM
I don't think they'll want to talk about that, Jay.
Dave August 12, 2011 at 06:54 PM
next election change it .So you do not agree with the action vote a new person in and over turn it .No recall election.Just please wait vote and see what happens stop spending time and money on this and let the goverment govern .
Lyle Ruble August 12, 2011 at 07:10 PM
@CowDung...Just a small correction, it is medicaid and not medicare. We have an issue with medicaid, in as much, as Walker and the legislature has set it up in such a way that the Dennis G. Smith, the Secretary of the Wisconsin Health Services, can at any time change the program as he sees fit, without legislative approval. As far as voucher and charter schools, I can't support that for a number of reasons. 1) They are not educating children any better than MPS (DPI report on standardized tests) 2) They don't have to meet the same teacher standards that public schools do 3) They also have demonstrated a vulnerability to scams and ripoffs 4) They don't take special needs students 5) The whole idea was originated and sponsored social right extremists who object to secular educations. They also object to any teaching of evolutionary theory as well as the teaching of US History that does not affirm the divine nature of the nations origin. The leading proponent is Betsy DeVoss who is married to Richard DeVoss the heir of the Amway fortune. I agree that the progressives haven't come up with anything to remedy the situation. It is not a question of money, it is the issue of creative programing.
CowDung August 12, 2011 at 07:29 PM
As I said, the voucher system isn't perfect, but it's an attempt to try something different. I won't argue with your point #1 aside from pointing out that there are more benefits to vouchers than academics--namely diversity. Point #2 doesn't matter to me. Having different teacher standards doesn't translate to an inferior education. Studies have shown that Master's degrees in education don't translate into any improvement in student performance. Point #3, any program is subject to scams and ripoffs. Prosecute those caught cheating the system. Point #4, schools are free to accept anyone they want--including special needs kids. Perhaps there might be an opportunity to start a school for special needs kids if voucher money were available to pay the cost. Point #5, parents are free to choose the type of school they feel gives their child the best education. If they object to secular schools, they can choose religious. If they object to religious, they can choose secular. Even within those groups, they can choose the school that they feel is best for them. Again, I feel that the best way to improve our education system is to put into place ideas and methods that are different, perhaps even progressive. With the current climate of the teacher unions, I really don't see that happening with anyone except the republicans.
CowDung August 12, 2011 at 07:31 PM
...and yes, you are correct--it should be Medicaid not Medicare.
Lyle Ruble August 12, 2011 at 07:56 PM
@CowDung...Let me address a couple of issues from your response. I don't want my tax dollars going to parochial schools. To me this violates separation of church and state. Also, concerning teacher qualifications; we are not talking about master degrees but people regulated by the state with state teaching licenses. There are already voucher schools that specialize in students with special needs, but the children have to be transported to take advantage of such facilities. Also, MPS is mandated by law to accept these students while charter and voucher schools are not.
CowDung August 12, 2011 at 08:15 PM
I don't see vouchers for religious schools to be a violation of church and state. The free choice of the parent to select a school means that the state is not attempting to force a religion onto anyone or establishing a state religion. As far as teacher licensing goes, again it doesn't really matter. If the actual quality of the teaching is substandard, private schools will lose students. It is in the school's best interest to have qualified and talented teachers (with or without license or certifications). Having a teaching license doesn't automatically make a person a better teacher than a person without a license. Yes, MPS is mandated to accept all students and voucher schools are not. The funding levels of MPS are much higher than the voucher amounts to account for that. Perhaps that would be an opportunity for MPS to better serve special needs kids while other students voucher out to other schools. I don't think that it is a large enough issue to condemn the whole program because it fails to serve a small minority of the students.
Lyle Ruble August 12, 2011 at 09:48 PM
@CowDung...Religious institutions do not pay taxes, therefore the government does not support religious institutions. When the government starts funding religious institutions then it has every right to intrude into that institution. Therefore, if religious schools receive government funding, then I or government representatives have the right to come in and see how the money is spent. It used to be that government institutions did not want government interference, therefore they were very careful to stay clear of government subsidies. It sounds as if you are not overly concerned how the taxpayer's money is spent or the quality of the instruction these children receive. Your statement is that it's not any worse than MPS so what's it hurt. No independent oversight; this last year was the first year they had to take the DPI exams. I think that you are again motivated by the pocket book. The cost of a voucher student is six grand, about half what an MPS student costs. Therefore, we'll push vouchers because it won't be any worse than MPS and we'll save on that money. Now we have a situation that all voucher or charter schools don't have to perform because their standard is a failing school system. Do you see anything wrong with this picture? It saves money but it doesn't create change. Please stop thinking with the attitude we can't change things, therefore let's save the money.
CowDung August 12, 2011 at 10:02 PM
Non profit organizations also do not pay taxes. That doesn't mean that they cannot accept or aren't eligible for government funds. There is no difference between secular non-profits and religious non-profits. The 'independent oversight' comes from the parents who enroll their kids at the school--parents aren't going to keep their kids in private schools that are crappy. The free enterprise system weeds out the underperforming schools, and rewards the best performers. Public schools are different--they are the default option for educating children, so a higher standard of oversight is required. I don't think that we are actually saving money with the voucher system. There is money budgeted to cover the cost of the vouchers above and beyond what is budgeted for the school district. From a cost standpoint, it would be cheaper to eliminate the voucher program.
George Mitchell August 12, 2011 at 10:32 PM
Several assertions regarding the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program are wrong. (1) Independent research comparing similar groups of students shows that students in the choice program have comparable test scores to those in MPS and graduate at higher levels than those in MPS. Independent scholars note that the DPI study cited (by Lyle) has a flawed comparison. (2) Contrary to what Lyle says, private schools in the choice program may not reject special needs students (whereas many individual MPS schools do not accept such students). (3) While private schools in the program are not subject to state teacher licensing, they must meet a wide range of faculty, curriculum, and governance standards established by independent accrediting agencies. (4) As for church and state, the Wisconsin Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court each have rejected the claim that school choice violates the First Amendment Establishment Clause.
Bewildered August 12, 2011 at 11:19 PM
Lyle, while you are right about religious institutions not paying taxes, many do pay municipalities a fee in lieu of taxes (which is tied into its property value and contains an inflation kicker). By so doing, they often receive municipal services (ie garbage pick up) in return. One example is the Shul in Bayside.
Lyle Ruble August 12, 2011 at 11:35 PM
@Bewildered...What Shul in Bayside?
Bewildered August 13, 2011 at 12:32 AM
Now in old Pandls. In Baysde, 5+ yrs
Jay Sykes August 13, 2011 at 12:36 AM
The Shul - Bayside is located in the building that formerly housed George Pandl's;recently moved from a storefront space at Audubon Court.
Bewildered August 13, 2011 at 12:58 AM
Wrong Pandls. Shul in closed Pandls of Bayside. I'm sure George would like to let everyone know Gearge Pandls in the Bay is alive and healthy (not to mention serving great food!)
Jay Sykes August 13, 2011 at 01:18 AM
@Bewildered... Jack Pandl's is in Whitefish Bay; Maybe Pandl's - Bayside dropped the 'George' a few years back; I sure miss the Sunday Brunch. Ok, so I still call it Brown Port(River Point) & Blue Port(Audubon).
Bewildered August 13, 2011 at 01:33 AM
I humbly stand corrected


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