Tag Archives: Scott Walker

“Badgering” the Wisconsin Voter

Tuesday’s Badger State primary took center stage in the GOP presidential nomination contest this week, but voters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s biggest city, were asked to do something slightly unusual that day – vote for a candidate who already had announced that he will run for another office.

Milwaukee mayor and former congressman Tom Barrett (D) was re-elected to a third term as the city’s mayor, but apparently isn’t planning to serve in that capacity for very long. On Friday of last week, he announced that he had also decided to become a candidate for the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial nomination in the primary election to be held in a little over a month, on May 8, for the right to face Gov. Scott Walker in a recall election that is sure to carry national implications.

Barrett will have to ramp up a statewide campaign quickly in the primary battle against former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, Secretary of State Doug LaFollette, and state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout for the right to take on Walker in the June 5 recall election. Also being conducted are recall elections against Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and three state senators. A fourth legislative office under recall will see a special election after incumbent Sen. Pam Galloway (R) announced her resignation in early March.

For the past few weeks Barrett had been coy, but dropped several hints that he was interested in a possible third run for governor even as he was campaigning for another term as Milwaukee’s mayor. Barrett lost the 2010 gubernatorial election to Walker by a 52 percent – 47 percent margin. He and Falk also previously lost a Democratic gubernatorial nomination, in 2002 to then-Attorney General Jim Doyle, who went on to serve as governor until Walker’s election in 2010.

Mr. Barrett has had a testy relationship with public employee unions, particularly those representing teachers, in Milwaukee. In fact, some union leaders had urged him to stay out of the race to clear the way for Falk and avoid a contentious Democratic primary with only one month to put together a general election campaign against Walker.

Counting the presidential primary, the regular primary, the recall, and the general election, Wisconsin voters are being asked to go to the polls at least five times between April and November all in significant contests that will affect more than just their own state’s politics. No wonder many in Wisconsin feel so “badgered” by politics.

Wisconsin Poll: Good for Obama, Bad for Baldwin

The Marquette Law School polled voters on the presidential race and upcoming open US Senate contest in what will be a pivotal 2012 political state. The survey (Feb. 16-19; 716 likely Wisconsin voters) finds President Obama faring well in at least one of several Great Lakes states that could foretell the final national election result.

According to the Marquette survey, Obama would lead former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who does best among the Republican contenders, by a 51-40 percent margin. He enjoys a 53-38 percent edge over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and even larger spreads when paired with ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (56-33 percent) and Rep. Ron Paul (52-36 percent).

Zeroing in on the Republican primary, it is Santorum who has a big lead in a state that will likely matter greatly in the GOP nomination contest (primary: April 3). The Pennsylvanian leads Romney 34-18 percent. Rep. Paul attracts 17 percent support and Gingrich 12 percent. Since the state has same-day voter registration and an open primary, all Wisconsinites will have the opportunity to participate in the Republican selection process. In sampling those who self-identify as Republicans, Santorum’s lead over Romney is even greater. Among this group, support for Santorum more than doubles over that for Romney, 44-20 percent.

Turning to the Senate race, the news is not overly good for Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2), who is the consensus Democratic candidate. Though Baldwin actually leads two of the three announced Republican candidates (she slips past former Rep. Mark Neumann (R-WI-1) 44-40 percent and enjoys a bigger edge, 45-37 percent, over state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald) her level of consistent support in all scenarios suggests a stagnant candidacy. When paired with former four-term Gov. Tommy Thompson, she trails. The former Wisconsin chief executive holds a 48-42 percent lead over Ms. Baldwin.

Notice that in all instances, even against Mr. Fitzgerald who has a low statewide name ID and fares the worst of all GOP candidates on the ballot test, the congresswoman falls within the same 42-45 percent support range. Opposing an extremely well-known Republican, but one with relatively high unfavorable ratings (Thompson), she scores 42 percent. Against an opponent with a hard name ID factor of less than 50 percent (Fitzgerald), she moves only to 45 percent. Paired with a former congressman and statewide candidate (Neumann) who hasn’t been on a general election ballot since 1998, she notches just 44 percent.

Her static performance against a rather diverse group of Republican candidates suggests that she may have an early support ceiling far below what will be necessary to win a general election.

Adding the recall election for Gov. Scott Walker (R) that will occur sometime between April and June, depending upon the resolution of several legal challenges to the presidential and senatorial contests, Wisconsin promises to be the hottest political state in the Union this year. How Wisconsin goes, so could the country.

Wisconsin Democrats Announce Walker Recall

Wisconsin Democratic state chairman Mike Tate officially proclaimed that his party and the liberal grassroots organization, United Wisconsin, will coordinate efforts in a recall campaign against Gov. Scott Walker (R). The attempt to cut his four-year term short by more than two years is in response to his aggressive stance against the public sector unions, which collectively are the key fundraising component of the Democratic coalition. This is a curious move, because their recall efforts against various Republican state senators early this year largely failed. Only two Republican incumbents fell, one who held a heavily Democratic seat and another who was caught in a highly publicized extra-marital affair.

The Democrats’ task will not be easy. They have slated Nov. 15 to begin their signature gathering effort. They must collect 540,206 valid signatures in a 60-day period. This means they could obtain as many as 2,000,000 in that short duration, all from qualified Wisconsin voters, in order to ensure the recall process will move forward.

Factoring in the length of the signature gathering, verification, and challenge periods in addition to the six-week campaign cycle, then a possible subsequent recall election would be sometime in May. If such a recall election is forced, it would be a very interesting precursor to the presidential campaign, especially since this current recall could also be portrayed as a referendum on the current state of national affairs, and even on President Obama himself if the Republicans play their campaign hand in a strategically sound manner. If Walker were to retain his office in this crucial and highly definable swing state, it could signal what’s to come in the general election.

The Wisconsin Democrats have decided to enter a very high-stakes poker game, one in which they have much to lose. Should they be successful in forcing the recall election, it will likely prove to be an exceptionally relevant warm-up match for the national main event.

The Democrats Win in Wisconsin – Round II

The second stage of the Wisconsin state Senate recall elections was held last night, and the challenged Democratic incumbents held both contested seats. State senators Jim Holperin and Bob Wirch won their respective recall elections with 55 percent and 58 percent of the vote, respectively.

The Holperin victory was the more impressive of the two since his northern Wisconsin district is far more conservative than Wirch’s Racine/Kenosha seat. The 12th state Senate district gave Supreme Court Justice Bob Prosser (R) a solid victory in his hotly contested re-election battle held earlier this year. In 2010, Sen. Ron Johnson and Gov. Scott Walker easily carried the region with both scoring victory percentages in the high-50s. But the string of GOP victories did not carry over to the recall election.

In the Wirch race, SD-22, the result was much easier to predict. This region is solidly Democratic and polling never indicated that Sen. Wirch was in serious trouble.

Now that all eight recalls have been run, six incumbents held their seats. The only two senators to lose, both last week, are Republicans Dan Kapanke, who represented a strong Democratic seat, and scandal-tainted Randy Hopper. The Republicans retain control of the Senate chamber, however, but with a much smaller 17-16 margin.

In the end, the Democrats boycotting their duties and running away to Illinois did not hurt them, since none were recalled. On the other hand, the Republicans, led by Gov. Walker, made fundamental change in the state’s public employee collective bargaining structure and then took the Democrats/unions hardest retaliatory punch and survived.

It will be interesting to see if the entire controversial process brings about any further national ramifications.
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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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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.