State Political and Government News: Both candidates wind-up campaigns in MilwaukeeWisconsin News
-- Both candidates for governor ended a whirlwind day of campaigning last night in their home area of Milwaukee. Governor Scott Walker, Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, and other Republican leaders spoke to several hundred people at Milwaukee’s Serb Hall.
MILWAUKEE - Both candidates for governor ended a whirlwind day of campaigning last night in their home area of Milwaukee. Governor Scott Walker, Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, and other Republican leaders spoke to several hundred people at Milwaukee’s Serb Hall.
At the same time, Democrat Tom Barrett spoke to around 100 supporters at a campaign office on Milwaukee’s south side. Walker said he would not concede a single vote in what’s expected to be a very close election today. And he told the crowd quote, “We’ve got a job to do to put more of our friends-and-neighbors back to work.” Kleefisch, who’s running against Democrat Mahlon Mitchell, said Wisconsin is about to send a message that quote, “We stand with leaders who make tough decisions.” State GOP chairman Brad Courtney said the party’s get-out-the-vote effort included over four-million contacts with voters. Barrett, the Milwaukee mayor, lambasted Walker for his attacks on the city – which included ads which blamed Barrett for the city’s tax increases, rising unemployment, and downgrading of crimes in police records. Democrats have said Walker was part of the problem during his years as Milwaukee County executive – something Walker has denied. Also last night, former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold campaigned with Barrett in Kenosha and asked voters quote, “Are you ready to make American history?” Walker is the third U.S. governor to face a recall vote, and the first two have lost – including Gray Davis in California in 2003. But Walker has led the independent pre-election polls by three-to-seven percent.
Governor Scott Walker had to wait in line this morning outside his polling place in Wauwatosa. The Republican Walker is the main target of today’s recall elections. He tweeted that he was Voter-Number-51 at Jefferson Elementary School just after the polls opened at seven this morning. At that time, Walker said the line crept outside the school and down to a sidewalk. Walker’s Democratic challenger, Tom Barrett, was also among a big crowd when he voted around seven a.m. at Milwaukee’s French Immersion School near his home. Officials reported long lines early this morning at many polling places in Milwaukee. Barrett, the city’s mayor, said he was glad that so many people care about democracy and the future of the state. Up to 2.8 million Wisconsinites are expected to vote today. The Government Accountability Board predicts a 65-percent turnout for just the nation’s third-ever recall vote against a sitting governor – and the first against an incumbent lieutenant governor. Republican Rebecca Kleefisch is challenged by Democratic state fire-fighters’ union president Mahlon Mitchell. There are also recall votes in four state Senate districts – and the Democrats only need to win one to take back the majority they had before the voters let the GOP take control of all of state government in November of 2010. All polls close at eight tonight.
Long lines were reported this morning at many of Wisconsin’s polling places, as voters are deciding whether to recall Governor Scott Walker and five other officials. Reid Magney of the state elections’ agency says there’s a strong turnout throughout the state with very few problems reported. In Madison, City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl said the atmosphere feels like a presidential election. And if the statewide turnout matches that, it would be higher than the 65-percent predicted by state elections’ officials. Just over 72-percent of Wisconsin voters took part in the 2008 contest that sent President Obama to the White House. And because there are very few undecided voters in the Walker race, both parties have been working to get their voters to the polls.
State elections’ officials got complaints, after a liberal group sent mailings showing whether their neighbors vote – and if they don’t, to push them into doing so. The Greater Wisconsin Political Fund mailed cards to registered voters over the weekend which listed their neighbors – and whether they voted or not in 2008-and-2010. One flier said Scott Walker was elected because “too many people stayed home.” And it urged folks to call or visit their neighbors and tell them to vote today. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said the mailings rattled a number of people, even though it’s been a public record for years whether-or-not a person votes. The Greater Wisconsin Political Fund did not say where the fliers were sent, but some media accounts said it was mainly in the Milwaukee area. Jane Boutan of Milwaukee says she won’t shame her neighbors into voting, because it’s none of her business. Connie Grueling feared the names-and-addresses on the open fliers could be used by criminals or identity thieves. And she said it’s an invasion-of-privacy to identify where the women live in her neighborhood. Viola Miller of Waukesha feared that somebody else would use her name to vote, because people do not have to show photo ID’s at the polls – although they will have to sign log books, and their signatures can help prove who they are. Government Accountability Board director Kevin Kennedy says it’s the first time the information has been used in a direct campaign mailing. The Board routinely sells the data to candidates and political groups for things like advertising – but they leave out a lot of personal items like birth dates and driver license numbers.
Control of the Wisconsin Senate is up for grabs today, as recall elections take place in four districts. Republicans need to win all four to keep the majority they had before Wausau’s Pam Galloway resigned in March. The power is currently split in the Senate with 16 Democrats and 16 Republicans. The Legislature is not scheduled to meet until after the November elections. But at the very least, both parties say today’s elections could provide momentum for their sides in the fall, when the entire Assembly and half the Senate will be up for re-election. Republican leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau is challenged by Fort Atkinson photographer Lori Compas. In the Racine area, Democrat John Lehman hopes to win back the Senate seat he lost to the current office-holder, Republican Van Wanggaard. Chippewa Falls Republican Terry Moulton faces a challenge from former Assembly Democrat Kristen Dexter. And two veteran Assembly members from the Wausau area hope to win Galloway’s old Senate seat – Republican Jerry Petrowski and Democrat Donna Seidel.
President Obama has finally weighed in on today’s recall election for Wisconsin governor. On Twitter yesterday, Obama said he was “standing up” for his fellow Democrat Tom Barrett in his effort to unseat Governor Scott Walker. Obama wrote that Barrett would quote, “make an outstanding governor.” The president was noticeably absent while other national figures from both parties campaigned for Walker and Barrett in recent weeks. Obama even flew over Wisconsin last Friday, but did not stop as he had a visit planned in neighboring Minnesota. White House spokesman Jay Carney was asked during a briefing yesterday why the president didn’t campaign in the Badger State for his fellow Democrat. Carney replied quote, “The president supports him, stands by him” – and he said Obama hopes Barrett will win. Independent polls have showed Barrett trailing Walker by 3-to-7 percent during the entire general election campaign. And Republicans say Obama has distanced himself from Barrett so the president’s own re-election chances wouldn’t be soiled. Barrett has taken the high road, saying he realizes the president is busy with other things. And the Milwaukee mayor has said he appreciates the support he got from national Democrats. Former President Bill Clinton highlighted a rally for Barrett last Friday in Milwaukee.
Five states, including California, will have their presidential primaries today. But President Obama and Mitt Romney have already wrapped up their parties’ nominations – so the Wisconsin recall vote will take center stage. Both the Republican Walker and Democrat Tom Barrett plan to campaign right until the end. Walker was scheduled to cast his vote in Wauwatosa just after the polls opened at seven this morning – and then, it’s on to Green Bay and Wausau before his Election Night party in Waukesha. Barrett was also planning to cast his ballot just after seven near his home in Milwaukee. He’ll stay in southeast Wisconsin today, with stops planned in Racine and Brown Deer before settling into his Election Night party in downtown Milwaukee. All polls in Wisconsin are now open, and they’ll close at eight tonight.
The numbers of absentee ballots in tomorrow’s Wisconsin recall elections might end up exceeding the numbers cast in 2010 – when Republican Scott Walker was first elected governor. The Government Accountability Board said 206-thousand ballots were recorded by the time the two-week in-person early voting period ended last Friday. But not all clerks use the statewide computer system that tracks absentee ballot filings – so the final number could exceed the 231,000 early ballots cast when Walker first defeated Democrat Tom Barrett in 2010. Barrett is challenging Walker again tomorrow, in a recall election triggered by Walker’s approval of a law that virtually ended collective bargaining for most public employee unions. Up to two-thirds of eligible voters are expected to cast ballots tomorrow. Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch is being challenged for recall separately – and there are contests for four state senators.
The U.S. Justice Department says it will monitor Wisconsin’s recall elections tomorrow, to watch for possible violations of the federal Voting Rights Act. A team of federal attorneys plans to be in Milwaukee – which is required to provide assistance in Spanish to anyone who asks for it. U-S Justice Department attorneys plan to maintain contact with local election officials. The federal government says it will also have monitors at elections tomorrow in California, South Dakota, and New Mexico. Wisconsin’s attorney general also plans to have monitors in some of the state’s largest cities to watch for possible vote fraud.