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.
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?