Tag Archives: David Prosser

GOP Survives Wisconsin Senate Recalls

Last night, Badger State voters went to the polls to decide the controversial Wisconsin recall elections in six state Senate districts. All featured Republican incumbents defending their seats. Next Tuesday, two Democratic incumbents will face the voters.

Democrats were successful in defeating two of the GOP incumbents but, overall, the results did not accomplish what the union organizers who gathered the necessary petitions to force a vote had desired. At the beginning of the evening, the Senate party division was 19R-14D. With the two Democratic victories, the worst case scenario for the GOP after the completion of all recall voting will be 17R-16D. Since only Democratic incumbents are before the voters on August 16th, the Republicans can only increase their majority or remain clinging to a one-seat advantage.

Turnout was predictably high. In most cases the numbers reached approximately 80 percent of what appear to be normal general election voter participation levels. This helped the GOP win two-thirds of the contests. Low turnout elections are normally won by the side that is most driven to turnout. Since the unions and Democrats were forcing the recalls to protest GOP Gov. Scott Walker and the legislature’s actions to curtail the public employee union benefits and organizing rights, it was they who should have been more energized. The districts were largely Republican, but President Obama did win all eight of the jurisdictions back in 2008. So, it is conceivable the Democrats could have done better.

The two seats they won were rather expected. Sen. Dan Kapanke (R), who represents a southwestern Wisconsin seat including the city of Lacrosse, suffered the biggest defeat, losing 45-55 percent to Democrat Jennifer Schilling. Kapanke, you may remember, challenged Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI-3) in their 2010 congressional race, losing 46-50 percent – a better result than he received last night in trying to defend his own position. Of the seats facing recall, this 32nd district was by far the most Democratic. The President received 61 percent here in 2008. Sen. Ron Johnson (R) who unseated then-Sen. Russ Feingold (D) in 2010, scored only 49 percent here. Walker posted 42 percent. In the other post-general election political race, the hotly contested 2011 battle for a key state Supreme Court seat, Republican incumbent Judge David Prosser, who won statewide, failed to carry the 32nd district. He registered only 44 percent. Last night’s recall here produced the biggest Democratic victory of the night, but in this type of district, such a result was largely expected.

The other Democratic victory featured a scandal-tainted Republican incumbent in the 18th district. Sen. Randy Hopper was the subject of controversy regarding an extra-marital affair and a messy divorce while the labor unrest in the state capitol was occurring. He lost his Senate seat last night by a tight 49-51 percent margin to Democrat Jessica King. Both new Senators will have to defend their seats in the 2012 general election, as that is the normal election time for the two even-numbered districts. Wisconsin state Senators receive four-year terms. The elections are staggered so that half of the seats stand for election every two years. The odd-numbers run with the governor; evens with the President. The 18th district is much more Republican than the previously mentioned 32nd district. Obama posted 51 percent in 2008. The 2010-11 District 18 results gave Sen. Johnson 59 percent, Gov. Walker 57 percent; and Judge Prosser 53 percent.

The Republican incumbents carried their districts last night with victory margins of 60 percent (Sen. Rob Cowles in District 2), 58 percent (Sen. Sheila Harsdorf in District 10), 54 percent (Sen. Alberta Darling in District 8), and 52 percent (Sen. Luther Olsen in District 14). Of these, the Harsdorf victory is the most impressive, as the Republican numbers were not as strong as in the other districts. Judge Prosser, for example, failed to carry this seat in 2011, scoring 48 percent of the vote.

Though the GOP lost two seats in the recall process, they appear to have survived all of the post-budget crisis action in relatively good shape. In the face of superior labor union and Democratic Party political organizing, they turned back the Supreme Court challenge and held onto the state Senate majority after enacting the controversial public employee union legislation that rocked the state capitol with nationally covered protests and featured the Democrats failing to report to the Senate for weeks. All of this in a state that routinely elects Democrats to positions of power. Wisconsin will clearly be a major battleground state for the coming 2012 election.
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Wisconsin Judicial Race in Official Recount

Normally a state Supreme Court judicial race doesn’t have much national significance, but everything coming from Wisconsin these days does. Assistant Attorney General JoAnn Kloppenburg, yesterday, officially requested a taxpayer financed statewide recount of her election defeat to incumbent Justice David Prosser. The official difference between the two candidates is 7,316 votes. The margin was barely within the 0.05% difference that can trigger an official recount. Any amount over this percentage can be tallied again, but the requesting candidate must finance the action.

This particular race was characterized as a referendum on Gov. Scott Walker’s position opposite the public employee unions in a fight that, for a time, attracted almost non-stop national news media attention. Both the unions and conservative organizations invested big dollars, activated large numbers of people, and expended immense effort into winning the April 5th election for their respective candidate. The winner would tip the conservative/liberal balance on the seven-member court one way or the other; hence, the high political stakes. The new law that now curtails public employee union organizing privileges will eventually come before the high court to finally decide, thus heightening the resolve for both sides in this election.

Most of the electoral controversy comes from Waukesha County, located due west of Milwaukee, where one town of more than 14,000 voters was not included in the original count. On election night, it appeared that Kloppenburg had won the election by a scant 204 votes, and declared victory. It wasn’t until the next day that the Waukesha error was discovered, thus igniting the dispute. Though the election is close, finding 7,400 illegal or missed votes is a very high number. Thus, Prosser’s victory will likely stand and the outcome should be viewed as a huge victory for Walker and his allies.
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Wisconsin Supreme Court: Prosser Now Leads, No End In Sight

More craziness is coming from the Badger State of Wisconsin. The state Supreme Court election held Tuesday, which will likely decide the constitutionality of Gov. Scott Walker’s new public collective bargaining law, has taken a crazy turn. Yesterday, JoAnne Kloppenburg, the state’s assistant attorney general, declared victory by just 204 votes of almost 1.8 million ballots cast. Today, however, a much different story is unfolding. Now the official count has incumbent Justice David Prosser ahead by 40 votes statewide, as the tabulations in Winnebago County were apparently mis-reported by the Associated Press.

Judges in Wisconsin run in non-partisan elections, but it is clear that Prosser is part of the state Supreme Court’s 4-3 conservative majority and Kloppenburg would join the liberal wing to give them the advantage.

Another county clerk also is reporting further discrepancies as the canvass of votes continues. It appears that Prosser will add a large number of votes from Waukesha County. Kloppenburg is getting a boost from some rural counties. The big story, however, may be not counting an entire locality. The town of Brookfield in Waukesha County, was apparently missed altogether. Thus, the Waukesha County under-count could exceed 14,000, no small number especially when dealing with such minuscule differences between the two candidates. If the canvass verifies this mistake, estimates predict that Prosser’s lead will grow to about 7,000 votes.

It is clear that the final result here won’t be determined for weeks, as litigation is sure to follow from the candidate who ends up a few votes short in the final certified tally. The election was cast as a battle between the public employee unions and Gov. Walker’s support groups. The fact that this battle was fought to a virtual draw, with a turnout almost double that of their normal odd-year election (and two-thirds of the total number of those casting ballots in the 2010 general election) must be viewed as a victory for Walker. The unions are energized, have superior organizational ability and resources, and should have finished in the low 50s for this election, particularly in a union-friendly state such as Wisconsin.
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A Wisconsin Majority: 50.007 Percent to 49.993 Percent

Normally, a spring election that features only a state Supreme Court justice running for re-election is not a major political story, but everything emanating from Wisconsin these days is bigger than life.

Such is the story of Supreme Court Justice David Prosser who, in running for a second 10-year term, appears to have lost by just 204 votes of more than 1.48 million ballots cast. Because Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial new budget law that severely restricts public employee collective bargaining will likely go before the Wisconsin Supreme Court to test its constitutionality, this race became highly significant.

The non-partisan Supreme Court is perceived to have a 4-3 conservative bent and Prosser is part of the majority. Therefore, the campaign posed a test for both union and conservative activists who took to the streets in order to flex their respective political muscle. The results suggest that the two sides fought to a draw. At this writing, union-backed Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg has declared victory, but absentee ballots remain to be tabulated and we can expect a lengthy recount process whatever the actual final result.

The voter turnout was extremely high, thus affirming the polarized state of Wisconsin politics. In the 2010 general election, just over 2.1 million people voted. In the normally sleepy April election held yesterday, more than 68 percent of those voting last November returned. In the 2009 Supreme Court election, less than 800,000 people participated, proving the motivating effect of this public employee union issue upon the electorate.
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For further detailed insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please contact me at PRIsm@performanceandresults.com.