News & Politics

Wisconsin: GOP Blocks Democrats from Voting; Republican Senator Tries to Outlaw Picketing, as Recall Efforts Pick Up Steam

As the majority leader attempts to discount Democratic votes, activists keep pushing for a recall.

For weeks and weeks, as pro-union protests grew in number and the stalwart "Wisconsin 14" (the "Fab 14") Democratic State Senators remained out-of-state to bravely aid a burgeoning movement, Republicans implored and begged them to come back, vote and "return to business." But when they refused, the GOP rushed-through their union-busting plan anyway. And now that the Democrats are back, they're being shut out of voting completely, effectively paving the way for one-party, dictatorial rule in the Wisconsin state senate. From an email written by Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald:

Dear Members,

With the return of the Senate Democrats this weekend, questions have arisen regarding Democrat members’ participation in Senate standing committee public hearings and executive sessions. 

Please note that all 14 Democrat senators are still in contempt of the Senate. Therefore, when taking roll call votes on amendments and bills during executive sessions, Senate Democrats’ votes will not be reflected in the Records of Committee Proceedings or the Senate Journal. They are free to attend hearings, listen to testimony, debate legislation, introduce amendments, and cast votes to signal their support/opposition, but those votes will not count, and will not be recorded. 

This is clearly not going to end well. In other news of GOP absurdity in Wisconsin, one of the Republican state senators has introduced new legislation that seems to be quite personal and petty. As TPM reports:

Wisconsin state Senator Van Wanggard, one of the Republican legislators whose home has been picketed in the political battle over Gov. Scott Walker's newly-passed law curtailing public employee unions, told the Racine Journal Times that he will be writing a new bill -- to outlaw picketing at private homes. 

One of the funnier stories to come out of Wisconsin involves state Senator Randy Hopper, who has worked closely with Gov. Walker on his union-busting legislation -- and who also happens to be in the middle of a brutal divorce. His estranged wife has signed his recall petition and informed protesters that he no longer lives in the district but rather in Madison with his 25-year-old mistress, which would make him in violation of state law:

Mrs. Hopper appeared at the door and informed them that Sen. Hopper was no longer in residence at this address, but now lives in Madison, WI with his 25-year-old mistress.

Blogging Blue reports that the conservative Republican's much-younger new flame is currently employed as a lobbyist for right-wing advocacy group Persuasion Partners, Inc., but was previously a state senate staffer who worked on the Senate Economic Development Committee alongside Mr. Hopper. Her bio has been scrubbed from the Persuasion Partners' website, but a screen-grab is available here....The petition has already been signed by the family's maid.

The estranged wife (and the former household maid) aren't the only ones signing those petitions. Recall petition drives proceeded at a record pace over the weekend, buoyed by a 100,000-person rally and general anger at Gov. Walker. 

Daily Kos has released some polling numbers on a potential recall election, finding that in some districts, such races could be quite interesting (emphasis ours):

We asked poll-takers whether, in a hypothetical election that would be held later this year, they'd support the incumbent (whom we mentioned by name), or his/her "Democratic opponent." (This sort of question is often described as testing a "generic Democrat.") Here, the results give us reason to be cautiously optimistic.

Three Republican incumbents actually trail "generic Dem": Luther Olsen, Randy Hopper, and Dan Kapanke. Two more have very narrow leads and garner less than 50% support: Rob Cowles and Sheila Harsdorf. And one more, Alberta Darling, holds a clear lead but is still potentially vulnerable. (Two recall-eligible senators, Mary Lazich and Glenn Grothman, sit in extremely red districts and look to have safe leads.) These numbers suggest we have a chance to make five and possibly six recall races highly competitive.

Stay with us for updates on this fascinating story as they come in.

Sarah Seltzer is an associate editor at AlterNet, a staff writer at RH Reality Check and a freelance writer based in New York City. Her work has been published in Jezebel.com and on the websites of the Nation, the Christian Science Monitor and the Wall Street Journal. Find her at sarahmseltzer.com. Lauren Kelley is an associate editor at AlterNet and a freelance writer and editor who has contributed to Change.org, The L Magazine and Time Out New York. She lives in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter here.