Governor Scott Walker is only one of the incumbents being challenged in six recall elections in Wisconsin today. Team Walker is hoping for a clean sweep, while Democrats believe that even if they lose the main event featuring Walker and Democrat Tom Barrett they have a chance for a consolation prize in winning nominal control of the state senate.
All of the recalls were launched because of Walker’s controversial changes in union privileges, such as requiring public-sector unions to collect dues voluntarily and be annually recertified by a vote of their members. Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, a former TV news anchor, has been a strong supporter of Walker’s and is being challenged by Mahlon Mitchell, the head of the state firefighter’s union. Polls show her with a narrow lead similar to that of Walker.
Four GOP state senators who sided with Walker are also facing opponents. Internal polls show three of the races leaning Republican, while a fourth — the contest between state senator Van Wanggaard and Democrat John Lehman in Racine — is closer. Democrats crow that if they win just one of the seats, they will have a 17 to 16 majority in the state senate.
But that majority, if it happens, may represent a Pyrrhic victory. The senate is out of session for the rest of the year with no business being transacted. And the new districts being used for state senate elections this November were carefully crafted to maximize GOP advantages. Most observers say it is hard to see Democrats keeping any senate majority they might have after November.
Of course, the real bragging rights will be over the governor’s race. But don’t forget the down-ballot races tonight, which will give a sense of just how much the winner of that race has coattails.
What everyone agrees on is that Wisconsin will at least have a summer’s respite from the endless series of elections it has endured since March 2011: a bitter Supreme Court race, two rounds of state senate recalls, and the recall of Governor Walker. But come Labor Day, Wisconsin will be in play again in the presidential race. Obama campaign director Jim Messina just reported he is now listing the state in the “toss-up” category for his candidate — a big concession, since the state has gone Democratic in every presidential race since 1984.