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Monday, March 4, 2024

Wisconsin recall effort comes up one win short

In this April 1, 2011 file photo, David Buerger, an elections specialist with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, inspects recall petitions filed against Sen. Dan Kapanke, R-LaCrosse, in his Madison, Wis. office. Tuesday's election targeting Kapanke and five other Republicans could swing majority control of the state Senate to the Democrats, giving them the power to block the GOP agenda. (AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal, John Hart, File)

A stand by Wisconsin Republicans against a massive effort to oust them from power could reverberate across the country as the battle over union rights and the conservative revolution heads toward the 2012 presidential race.

Democrats succeeded in taking two Wisconsin state Senate seats away from Republican incumbents on Tuesday but fell one short of what they needed to seize majority control of the chamber.

Republicans saw it as a big win for Gov. Scott Walker and a confirmation of his conservative agenda, the hallmark of which was a polarizing proposal taking away most collective bargaining rights from public workers.

“Republicans are going to continue doing what we promised the people of Wisconsin — improve the economy and get Wisconsin moving back in the right direction,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said in a prepared statement after the victory.

Walker attempted to strike a bipartisan tone in victory, saying that he reached out to leaders in both parties.

“In the days ahead I look forward to working with legislators of all parties to grow jobs for Wisconsin and move our state forward,” Walker said in a prepared statement.

Democrats and union leaders tried to make the best of the historic GOP wins. There had been only 13 other successful recalls of state-level office holders nationwide since 1913.

“The fact of the matter remains that, fighting on Republican turf, we have begun the work of stopping the Scott Walker agenda,” said Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate.

Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, said voters sent a message that there is a growing movement to reclaim the middle class.

“Let’s be clear, anyway you slice it, this is an unprecedented victory,” he said.

Still, it was far less than what Democrats set out to achieve. And while they still plan to move ahead with recalling Walker, maintaining momentum for that effort which can’t start until November will be difficult.

Sen. Luther Olsen, one of the four Republicans who won, said he hoped the victories would “take the wind out of the recall for Walker, but I’m not sure.”

Two Democratic senators face recall elections next week, but even if they prevail, Republicans would still hold a narrow 17-16 majority.

Four Republican senators held on to their seats Tuesday. They were Olsen and Sens. Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls, Rob Cowles of Allouez, and Alberta Darling of River Hills. Two Republicans — Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac and Dan Kapanke of La Crosse — were defeated. Former deputy mayor of Oshkosh Jessica King beat Hopper and Democratic state Rep. Jennifer Shilling beat Kapanke.

A ninth senator, Democrat Dave Hansen of Green Bay, won his recall election last month.

Collectively, more than $31 million has been spent on the recalls, largely from outside conservative groups, unions and others.

Republican and Democratic strategists were leery of reading too much into the results heading into next year’s campaign in which Wisconsin is expected to be a key swing state.

Democratic strategist Chris Lehane said the results could provide “some early radar warnings” about the 2012 races.

“At a minimum, we already know that the conservatives are providing energy for progressive to fight back like an angry badger that otherwise may not have existed,” he said.

Lehane said Wisconsin’s tumultuous year since November’s elections has been a microcosm of the current “rollercoaster” era of U.S. politics.

Wisconsin voters had mixed emotions about the necessity of the recalls.

Wayne Boland, 41, a Whitefish Bay man who works in marketing for a medical equipment maker, said he voted for the Republican Darling “not because I entirely agree with everything the Republican Party has done or the governor” but because they’re working toward addressing the state’s problems.

Republicans won control of both houses of the Legislature and the governor’s office in the 2010 election just nine months ago.

Democrats had hoped enough wins in the recalls would have allowed them to block the Republican agenda, but the GOP will hold on to their majorities that have allowed them to rapidly pass bills through the Legislature.

The elections were also closely watched in other states undergoing similar partisan battles.

A coalition of unions and labor-friendly groups fighting a Wisconsin-style collective bargaining overhaul in Ohio said the outcome of the recall elections will have little bearing on whether Ohio’s law is repealed this fall.

The effort in Wisconsin was about recalling specific Republicans who voted for the anti-union bill while the push in Ohio is about repealing the law itself. That makes it difficult to compare the two states, said We Are Ohio spokeswoman Melissa Fazekas.

Supporters of the Ohio law also are distancing their state from the fight in Wisconsin.

“We’re not focused on Wisconsin, and Ohioans aren’t looking to another state to tell them where they should stand,” said Jason Mauk, spokesman for Building a Better Ohio, a group defending the collective bargaining law.

Ohioans will vote Nov. 8 on whether to accept or reject the union-limiting law signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich in March that limits bargaining rights for more than 350,000 police, firefighters, teachers and other government employees.

Unlike Wisconsin, Ohio’s Constitution makes no provision for recalling elected officials.


Associated Press writers Colin Fly in Menomonee Falls, Wis., Marilynn Marchione in Whitefish Bay, Wis., Julie Smyth in Columbus, Ohio, and Henry C. Jackson in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

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7 thoughts on “Wisconsin recall effort comes up one win short”

  1. I can’t really say how the repeal in Ohio is going. It seems fairly divided to me. And basically if it is repealed, it will probably mean fewer jobs for those public employees but they will still be higher paying. So which is really better for our kids and communities?
    This is too close to call.

  2. Keith, I worked for Lear Radio years ago and he said your very words to us. Our facility was run over with Union workers only to find out that Lear paid higher wages and handed out more perks than the Union demanded. It was a nasty scene and I got out of there before I opened my mouth and therefore beaten up. I made the right move and found a better job at Hughes Aircraft. My grandmother owned a lot of Lear Stock and sold it quickly. It was a good move for her too. He ended up in Nevada trying to build an electric car. Didn’t work. I had grown up knowing the Lear family and they were decent people who had made more jobs in Santa Monica along with Douglas Aircraft than others. Hughes had union shops where they made the parts of the Falcon missile that I worked for but the office help did not have to.

    • Indeed.

      I also believe the unions were largely to blame for GM and Chrysler going belly up a few years back. Their highly entrenched unions largely prevented them from innovating and competing with other, non-union automakers (like Toyota and Honda) who have found that if you take care of your employees with a fair wage and good treatment, there’s absolutely no need for unions in the first place.

      What’s more, many companies have also now discovered that trying to innovate in a collective bargaining atmosphere is a lot like trying to drive a car with your foot on the gas and the brake at the same time….things go nowhere.

      And, in today’s highly competitive global marketplace, companies that can’t innovate because of their highly restrictive collective bargaining agreements are eventually doomed to failure. And when they do EVERYONE (except perhaps the union bosses)loses.

      Like I said, collective bargaining worked when employers had little choice as to where they operated and who they hired. But now they do. And there are also plenty of people waiting in line for jobs these days…under any working conditions.

      Unfortunately, it would appear that the mafioso types now running our unions have yet to wake up to those facts.

  3. …”When they are mandated by any State. they can get greedy”….

    To which I might add…”nonproductive”. Unions are like lawyers…they add absolutely NOTHING to a nation’s productivity.

    Collective bargaining simply drives the cost of everything produced upward because manufacturers simply pass along the cost of all that nonproductive union labor to those who purchase their products.

    And then we have the nerve to wonder why many of our union-infested manufacturing jobs have since been outsourced to China!

    To be frank, I have absolutely NO sympathy for these people who lost their jobs due to their union’s outrageous wage demands which, in turn, simply forced their employers to look elsewhere for cheaper labor. They largely have absolutely NOBODY to blame but themselves for their (and their union’s) greed.

    Clearly, such nonsense used to work in the past when employers didn’t have a choice. But, in today’s global marketplace, now they do.

    What;s more, collective bargaining has absolutely NO place in the public sector beyond such things as working conditions and other such “hygene” factors.

    Holding taxpayers (who usually have absolutely NO say in the matter) hostage to outrageous public sector union-backed wage demands is much like holding a gun to people’s heads and saying “pay up…or else”.

    It would appear that the citizens of Wisconsin (and other government entities with similar public unions) are fed up with all such nonsense….as they well should be.

  4. I have always held mixed thoughts about Unions. When they are mandated by any State. they can get greedy. I always prefer a state that is considered “open.” Let the Unions convince the workers they are covering their right and leave the choice to the workers.

    Apparently the Wisconsin voters prefer non-unions in their states. It is their choice.

  5. The Tea Party is gaining ground in California of all places. So I’m a little surprised that AP is trying too play up a growing defection or dissatisfaction among the American people with the Tea Party. The unions just threw everything but the kitchen sink, and could not get it done. The American people are fed up with the dems and republicans who side with the dems. 2012 will be bigger “shellacking” then 2010.

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