State Political and Government news: Final Senate recall elections todayWisconsin Legislature
-- A hot summer in Wisconsin politics ends today, when voters cast ballots in the last of nine state Senate recall elections.
A hot summer in Wisconsin politics ends today, when voters cast ballots in the last of nine state Senate recall elections.
In the north, incumbent Democrat Jim Holperin of Conover goes against Tea Party founder Kim Simac. And Senate Democrat Bob Wirch of Kenosha County is challenged by attorney Jonathan Steitz, both from Pleasant Prairie.
High voter turnouts are possible again today In Merrill, 22-percent of those registered in two districts had voted at City Hall by 10:20 this morning. City Clerk Bill Heideman said turnouts were also strong in Merrill’s six other districts – but he did not have immediate numbers. In Eagle River, officials said 90 people voted in the first two hours of today’s balloting – and that’s a high number for a non-presidential election. In Tomahawk, the city clerk said 90 people voted absentee for today’s recall contest – again, a relatively large number for that small tourist community. Voters in all those cities are deciding whether to keep state Senate Democrat Jim Holperin, or replace him with Tea Party Republican Kim Simac. In the Kenosha area, traffic was also said to be heavy around at least some polling places – but no numbers were immediately available. Voters there are deciding whether to recall Senate Democrat Bob Wirch, in favor of attorney Jonathan Steitz. All polls close at eight tonight.
Today’s elections are the last of nine Senate recall contests throughout Wisconsin. Republicans kept four seats and lost two last week.
Holperin and Wirch have taken lots of heat over their decisions to join the 12 other Senate Democrats in leaving the Capitol for three weeks to try-and-block the law that limits public union bargaining. Both incumbents said the move was necessary because majority Republicans were going too fast, and people needed time to understand the changes. GOP senators Randy Hopper and Dan Kapanke lost their jobs last week for supporting the union law. But Democrats failed to gain the three seats they needed to win back control of the Senate, after last November’s Republican sweep of the statehouse. Still, Democrats hope to gain some bargaining power in the Senate by reducing the GOP’s majority from five seats to as little as one. Democratic leaders say it would be easier to forge compromises, and make the GOP’s agenda a little more moderate.
People on both sides are questioning new polls that predict easy election victories today for two Wisconsin Democratic senators who face recalls. The Public Policy Polling firm said its surveys over the weekend show that incumbent Jim Holperin leads Republican challenger Kim Simac 55-41 percent in northern Wisconsin. And Senate Democrat Bob Wirch leads challenger Jonathan Steitz 55-42 percent. John Hogan of the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate said the polling was based on a quote, “horribly slanted sample.” And Dan Hunt, who organized the recall effort against Wirch, said both races today are too close to call. Kelly Steele of the union coalition “We Are Wisconsin” didn’t buy the polling numbers, either, even though his group supports the Democrats. Steele said the Holperin race is a toss-up. But Gillian Morris of the State Democratic Party said the polls reflect what her workers have seen – that the incumbent Democrats have a big edge today. But Hunt says it will all come down to the voter turnout. There were big turnouts last Tuesday, when six Republican senators were fighting to keep their jobs and two of them lost.
A state government watchdog group now estimates that $37-million will be spent on this summer’s Senate recall elections. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign says each contest will average over a million-dollars more than the previous record of three-million-dollars for a state Senate race set in 2000. Five of last week’s six recall votes against Republican senators set new spending records. And the Democracy Campaign figures that today’s northern Wisconsin race between incumbent Jim Holperin and Republican Kim Simac will do the same. The group estimates that outside groups have spent four-and-a-half million dollars on ads in that contest. Holperin and Simac reported almost a half-million in their spending last week, bringing the total for the race to over five-million. In today’s other recall contest, the Democracy Campaign said outside groups have spent around two-point-two million dollars. Those candidates – Jonathan Steitz and incumbent Bob Wirch – reported spending $268,000 last week. Mike McCabe of the Democracy Campaign says groups that are not registered with the state have spent at least as much, and maybe more, than registered groups. The recall efforts have attracted national attention, as a possible gauge of union support going into next year’s presidential contest.
The Wisconsin State Senate’s majority leader says one of his top priorities this fall is to speed up the process for approving new mining projects. And this time, Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) promises to get minority Democrats involved in shaping the measure. That’s after Republicans failed to ram through a bill this spring that would have reduced the state’s review process from seven years to about 300 days. It could have allowed Gogebic Taconite to build a proposed iron-ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties much quicker. But Senate Democrat Bob Jauch – who represents the area of the proposed mine – said the GOP bill was written by the industry with few opportunities for local input. Jauch, of Poplar, also said it would have made it easier for mining companies to violate terms of the new Great Lakes water protection act. He says he’s open to speeding up the state’s review process to about 2-to-3 years. Jauch said it would still provide enough time to determine the environmental impacts of new mining projects, and let people have their say. The Gogebic Taconite mine is on hold until the state acts on a faster review process.