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Recall Battle Isn't Over for Democrats

Even with no chance of Democrats gaining control of the state Senate, both parties say next week's Democrat recall elections are critical. And plans to recall Gov. Scott Walker continue.

While Democratic challengers picked up two Senate seats Tuesday night to win the battle, they couldn’t secure all three seats to win the war.

Four recalled Republicans secured wins Tuesday evening, just enough to block a shift of the Senate floor control to the Democrats. 

“The political consequence is that they have tried to take control of the Senate and they failed,” said Charles Franklin, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin.

“The Senate will stay in Republican hands. The Democrat’s ability to block legislation remains just about a limp as it did yesterday.”

The Senate control wasn't known until the results emerged for the final election to be counted: the 8th Senate recall race between incumbent Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and challenger Rep. Sandy Pasch (D-Whitefish Bay). Political observers from around the world watched from the edge of their seats as the results slowly trickled in. 

Finally, at 12:30 Wednesday morning, Darling announced her victory over Pasch.

“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 joined three other Republican senators who also fought off recall challenges around the state, including Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon), Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Allouez) and Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls). Final, unofficial totals compiled by the Associated Press showed Darling collected 39,471 votes, or 54 percent, and Pasch tallied 34,096 votes, or 46 percent, on election night.

Andrew Davis, Friends of Alberta Darling’s campaign manager, said some Democrats were overly confident in winning the recall elections, and that may have been their downfall. However, it doesn’t mean next week’s remaining elections are pointless.

“Those were races that people wrote off early, and then in the end, thought there was a chance that we still hold them,” Davis said. “For that much money we spent on those two senate seats, the Dems can be proud of winning those two races. This showed that their whole recall effort has failed, they may have picked up seats, but those are small victories for them.”

Davis said voters voiced their concerns very clearly Tuesday. 

“We heard the message loud and clear,” Davis said. “I don’t know how many times they have to speak here in Wisconsin and say how they want things to be done in Madison, and how they want government to work for them.”

Next week, two recalled Democrats will face off Tuesday against challenging Republicans. While some voters may feel these races do not have as strong an impact when only two seats were gained last night, John McAdams, an associate professor of political science at Marquette University, said it’s not over yet.

“In principal, having a two- or three-vote majority in any legislative assembly is better than having a one vote majority because there are always moderating Republicans,” McAdams said.

Sen. Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) has voiced concerns about Gov. Scott Walker’s agenda, noted Barry Burden, professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin.

Schultz may give Democrats some more push in the Senate, he said.

“Schultz will definitely get attention if the Republicans have a mere one seat advantage,” Burden said. “He has been known to break with Gov. Walker. Politically, his district looks a lot like Kapanke's. Seeing his colleague defeated in a recall might give him additional motivation to work with the Democrats.”

Mike Tate, chair for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said the results of Tuesday’s elections demonstrate vulnerability for another Republican to get recalled — Gov. Scott Walker.

“Tuesday’s historic Wisconsin recall elections showed just how vulnerable Republicans are in the November 2012 elections — and how vulnerable Gov. Walker is to a recall election himself,” Tate wrote in a press release.

“Barely scraping by on their own turf is an incredible sign of weakness for Gov. Walker and Republicans,” Tate wrote. “The historic gains made tonight to restore balance and accountability to our state, and restore Wisconsin values, will continue when the entire state weighs in on the November 2012 elections — and with the recall of Scott Walker himself.”

Not a sweeping state-wide approval on Walker's agenda, experts say

Many voters saw the recall elections as a referendum on Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011-'13 budget and budget repair bill, which eliminated most collective bargaining rights for public workers.

Recalls against the six Republican senators were sparked by outrage of the repair bill and resulted in signature petitions being gathered.

Political experts say, however, Tuesday night's election results aren't a state-wide endorsement of Walker's agenda.

“There are still a lot of Democratic trending districts in the state and two Republican senators were unseated," Franklin said.

Franklin said Pasch lost the 8th Senate District race because it’s a Republican-leaning district.

“She was running against a Republican in a Republican district,” Burden said. “It was a uphill battle from the beginning.”

Voter turnout throughout the district was very strong, shattering the turnout for the Supreme Court race — with both sides increasing its voter crowd.

Voting in the April Supreme Court race between incumbent Justice David Prosser and Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg was a good parallel to the way the 8th Senate District voted Tuesday night, Franklin said.

He said there was only a half-percent change in the way the votes leaned in the Darling/Pasch race compared to the Kloppenburg/Prosser race.

“That is sort of a stunning result,” Franklin said.

McAdams said calling it a statewide endorsement is too strong and it should just be labeled a win for the Republicans.

“This is the second referendum we’ve had on Walker’s policies," McAdams. "The Republicans have won narrowly in both cases, so Republicans can’t say our policies have been wildly and overwhelmingly endorsed. On the other hand, they’ve won, but narrowly.”

Bewildered August 14, 2011 at 01:59 PM
Tass, I would rather have individual school and municipal boards making their own decisions how to manage their budgets now that the BRB is in place. I believe that was a main point of bill #10 (BRB) was to push decisions back to local level after giving them ability to make real changes ( ie: ability to negotiate Heath insurance with out union veto)
Bewildered August 14, 2011 at 02:08 PM
Lyle, in answer to your question," at what point...raise taxes", as a conservative, I would say when the economy turns around, jobs are created and spending is brought under control. Till then, any discussion of higher taxes would be a non starter. Until people in Wi (at least those who support walker, and right now thats the majority) have some discretionary money, they will not be willing to pay more in taxes. We believe there is a spending problem, not a revenue issue. and we hate more debt .
Pudge August 14, 2011 at 04:25 PM
Tass, you state that "we can only take so much from those people"? What Act 10 took away from "those" people was a free ride on insurance and pension - the money is still used for their own personal benefit, no one elses. The other thing Act 10 did was expose the teachers union as a complete rip off of the public - without the changes in collective bargining, WEAC's insurance company would still be over charging premiums to the tune of 30-40%. What services have been cut? The only school districts laying off teachers are the ones who were dumb enough to enter into new contracts before Act 10 took effect. And what was the teachers response to the firing of 200 of their own in MKE? Tough luck, sorry but it really sucks to be you. I find your last statement very ironic since all of the protesting we have seen in Madison is because the public sector employees want their benefits to continue at the same level without paying for them - they are like the person who never picks up the check at dinner but orders the most expensvie item on the menu. Sorry, welcome to the era of the dutch treat - you buy yours, I'll buy mine. What is unfair about that?
Randy1949 August 14, 2011 at 05:11 PM
@Pudge -- The public employees had negotiated more generous benefits in return for lower take-home pay. This was to the benefit of both employers and employee. Now the agreement has been breached and the pay rate held at the same level (they can't collectively bargain for raises above the level of inflation) while taking the new employee contribution out of the pay. They're taking anywhere from a 5% to a 13% cut.
Peter Egan Jr. September 23, 2011 at 02:18 AM
It's over now. Was it really worth it?

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