(Update) Walker, Kleefisch win decisively but Dems take control of State SenateWisconsin News
-- Wisconsin's recall election was neither as close as expected nor was the turnout as high as once thought either.
MADISON - Scott Walker became the nation’s first governor ever to survive a recall election – and it was not as close as many predicted.
With over 99-percent of the vote counted, the Republican Walker led Democrat Tom Barrett 53-46 percent, with Brookfield kidney specialist Hari Trivedi getting the other one-percent. Walker’s victory margin was slightly bigger than when he first defeated Barrett in 2010. Amid chants of “Thank You Scott,” Walker told his victory party in Waukesha that voters quote, “really do want leaders who stand up and make the tough decisions.” And he vowed more cooperation with his opponents, after he acted quickly last year to slash collective bargaining rights for most public employee unions.
In a scene reminiscent of last year’s demonstrations against the union law, over a-thousand people gathered at the State Capitol last night as the returns were coming in. Barrett, the Milwaukee mayor, told supporters to keep fighting for what they believe in. State Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate said his side was badly out-spent, but the recall battle was still worth fighting. And Tate said it would be a mistake to call Wisconsin a “red state” now.
Barrett only carried one-of-every-six counties, including his home county of Milwaukee and Madison’s Dane County by roughly 2-to-1 margins. Barrett also won in La Crosse, Portage, Rock, Iowa, Kenosha, Columbia, Menominee, Ashland, Bayfield, and Douglas counties. Although some places reported turnouts of 80-percent, the statewide total was only around 58-percent. Two-and-a-half million people voted, about 300,000 less than what state officials had projected.
Republican Rebecca Kleefisch stays on as lieutenant governor, after she defeated state firefighters union president Mahlon Mitchell 53-47 percent. But Walker will no longer have a GOP Senate to work with, at least until after the November elections. Democrats temporarily won the majority during the night, when former Racine Senator John Lehman recaptured the seat he lost in 2010 to Republican Van Wanggaard. Lehman won 51-49 percent, with a margin of 221 votes out of 72,00 cast. Senate GOP leader Scott Fitzgerald and Chippewa Falls Republican Terry Moulton easily won their contests, each getting 57-to-58 percent of the vote. And Assembly Republican Jerry Petrowski of Marathon got 61-percent in defeating Assembly Democrat Donna Seidel of Wausau for the seat vacated when recall target Pam Galloway resigned in March.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said Governor Scott Walker’s recall election victory would quote, “echo beyond the borders of Wisconsin.” State GOP workers hoped their get-out-the-vote effort for Walker would carry into the fall, and help Romney become the first Republican to win the Badger State’s presidential votes since Ronald Reagan’s second term in 1984. But President Obama’s camp said their man would still prevail in Wisconsin. Obama state campaign director Trippe Wellde pointed to exit polls yesterday which showed that voters favored the president over Romney. And Wellde said the recall effort sent a strong message to Walker about quote, “the politics of division.” But the former Massachusetts governor said Walker showed that taxpayers can fight back and prevail against quote, “the runaway government costs imposed by labor bosses.” And Romney predicted that Wisconsinites would reject old liberal ideas in favor of “fiscal responsibility and a new direction.” Republican Governors Association chairman Bob McDonnell of Virginia said Wisconsin voters “rewarded political courage.” He called the Walker victory an attack against quote, “unsustainable entitlements and long-term fiscal responsibilities.” And he said Walker’s actions in closing the state’s deficit, cutting property taxes, and improving schools have made Wisconsin stronger for today and tomorrow.
Wisconsin’s public employee unions are licking their wounds after losing their battle to recall Governor Scott Walker. But those unions say they won’t be going away, even though they have no hope of regaining their previous collective bargaining privileges until 2015 at the earliest. Marty Beil of the Wisconsin State Employees Union said his group would function like it did just over a half-century ago, when it did not have bargaining rights. But he admits that between 25-and-40-percent of its members have stopped paying dues – and others are paying less. He also said his union has had to leave some vacant jobs unfilled. Mary Bell, head of the state’s largest teachers’ union, says about two-thirds of its districts still have union contracts set before last year’s limits took effect – and of the rest, about 70-percent are paying dues to her group. In March, unions scored a partial victory when Federal Judge William Conley of Madison struck down provisions that required annual certification votes by public unions. He also said it was unconstitutional to prohibit the state from deducting dues from the checks of those who choose to pay those dues.
As nasty as the governor’s recall election was, incumbent Scott Walker said it did not deteriorate into personality attacks between him and Democrat Tom Barrett. And as a result, Walker said today it would be easier for both parties to work more closely. The governor did a series of national and local media interviews before visiting Steelwind Industries in Oak Creek, where he shook hands with employees. This afternoon, Walker is scheduled to meet privately with his cabinet, with job creation as the Number-One topic. The Republican Walker told Milwaukee radio talk show host Charlie Sykes his top priority would be to put people to work. And Walker repeated his campaign prediction that we’d see a quote, “tremendous burst of new jobs in the coming weeks” because small businesses now know that Walker’s pro-business agenda will continue. Walker also said he’d make a greater effort to reach bipartisan agreements. And he said it helped that the recall campaign stuck to the issues. Walker said people forget that in the first two months of last year, a number of job bills and business tax breaks were approved with overwhelming votes from both parties. The governor also told Sykes he’ll take a respite from all the political hub-bub on Sunday, when he goes on a long Harley motorcycle ride. He says he’s not sure where he’ll go.
Fire up the grill. Governor Scott Walker says he’ll send out invitations today to all 132 state legislators of both parties, inviting them to a picnic where they can put their political wounds behind them. The Republican Walker calls it the first step to get more people engaged in the political process – and to create more transparency at the Capitol. The governor told Milwaukee radio talk show host Charlie Sykes he does not believe all 132 lawmakers will want to show up but quote, “My gut instinct is that most people and most lawmakers are ready to move on.” He said both parties worked together to approve a number of economic bills last year – and therefore, Walker says it shouldn’t be too hard to gain more congeniality. But he said that unlike other leaders, he would not use it as an excuse for not getting things done.
State Senate Republican Van Wanggaard had not conceded defeat as of late this morning. Unofficial vote totals show that Wanggaard lost to the senator he defeated in 2010, Democrat John Lehman, by 779 votes with almost 72,000 cast. The margin was around one-point-one percent – which means Wangaard’s campaign would have to pay for a recount if it wants one. Taxpayers only fund a recount when the margin is one-half-of-one-percent or less. Lehman declared victory around one this morning giving Democrats the majority in the state Senate for the first time in a year-and-a-half. Lehman said people voted for quote, “checks and balances” in the state Legislature. Wanggaard campaign manager Justin Phillips said he was surprised that Lehman would declare victory. He said Wanggaard owes it both to his supporters and Wisconsin voters to quote, “thoroughly examine the election and its results, and act accordingly once we have all the information.” That could take awhile. Local canvassers have until June 15th to submit their official totals – and the losing candidate would have until June 20th at the latest to ask for a recount. A Democratic state Senate takeover would not mean much for now, since the Legislature probably won’t be in session until after the November elections. But the party says it will give Democrats momentum heading into the fall.