Wisconsin Recall: Dems Take Back 2 Seats From GOP; Republicans Retain Control of State Senate; Tampering Alleged
Wisconsin Democrats last night may not have won the whole quesadilla they had hoped for, but liberal cheeseheads succeeded in taking back two state Senate seats from Republicans in last night's unprecedented recall elections, falling short in this round of their goal in taking back control of the legislative body by recalling sitting Republican senators.
If, as some pundits declared, last night's recall elections for Wisconsin state Senate offer a preview of what the 2012 presidential elections will look like, we can look forward to millions of dollars of uncertain provenance spent on sneering TV ads to arrive at a result to be determined by a few thousand votes counted by an unreliable official, under inevitable accusations of vote tampering.
In an unprecedented event, Wisconsinites last night cast ballots in recall races launched against six Republican members of the state Senate, all supporters of Gov. Scott Walker's draconian budget bill that strips most bargaining rights from public employees and slashes the public health-care program. Two of those targeted lost their seats to Democrats but, after a cliffhanger in the state Senate's 8th District, Republicans retained control of the body.
If Democrats were to wrest control of the state Senate from the Republicans, as these recall elections were designed to do, they needed to win three of the six seats up for recall. The contest went down to the wire, with Republicans holding onto three of the contested seats, Democrats winning two outright, and 8th District seat contested by Democrat Sandy Pasch, ultimately retained by Republican Alberta Darling after Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus -- already notorious among Democrats for having stumbled upon an extra 7,000 votes cast for the Republican in the July race for state Supreme Court after the race had been called for the Democrat -- delivered her tallies later than expected.
Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate wasted no time in pointing the finger at Nickolaus, telling his audience at Milwaukee's Majestic Theater that Nickolaus was "sitting on votes." Tate later issued a statement that read:
The race to determine control of the Wisconsin Senate has fallen in the hands of the Waukesha County clerk, who has already distinguished herself as incompetent, if not worse. She is once more tampering with the results of a consequential election and in the next hours we will determine our next course of action. For now, Wisconsin should know that a dark cloud hangs over these important results.
As AlterNet reported, suspicions were raised of attempted voter suppression by the right-wing group Americans For Prosperity in two of the races, when the group sent out applications for absentee ballots to Democratic voters with a reply-by date for this Thursday, August 11 -- two days after the election.
Last night's elections are the first round of recall contests for seats in the state Senate; two Democrats* face recall contests next Tuesday, August 16.
The Wisconsin recalls have attracted an unprecedented level of spending by interest groups, ranging from national labor unions to right-wing groups such as the Club for Growth and David Koch's Americans For Prosperity. We Are Wisconsin, a coalition of labor-affiliated groups, spent $2.7 million for organizing and advertising. Working with their partners at Democracy For America, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee raised more than $1 million for their organizing work and television advertising in the races. The Club for Growth spent $1.5 million in the recall races, while, In just the last week, Americans for Prosperity made $150,000 in television advertising buys.
*CORRECTION: This piece originally stated that the two state senators facing recall elections on August 16 are Republicans. They are not; they are Democrats Bob Wirch and Jim Holperin.