Dems won't reclaim majority in State Senate
8/12/2011 11:23:00 AM
By Laurel Carlson
Just nine months removed from last fall's General Election and more than $31 million later, the Wisconsin State Senate will still have a Republican majority - even if the two Democrats, including incumbent 12th District Sen. Jim Holperin, win in their recall elections next week.
That's because the Tuesday, Aug. 9, recall elections across the state saw just two Democrats oust their Republican opponents, while four GOP incumbents retained their seats.
Those removed from their Senate seats are incumbent Republican Dan Kapanke, in District 32, who lost by a 5 percent margin to Democrat Jennifer Schilling. The incumbent Kapanke had been in the Senate since 2004. The other Republican ousted was first-term incumbent Sen. Randy Hopper, of District 18, who lost by 2 percent of the votes to Democrat Jessica King.
Two Democratic senators face recall elections Tuesday, Aug. 16, including Holperin, who will face Republican Kim Simac, and Sen. Bob Wirch in District 22 who will face Republican Jonathan Steitz. But even if they prevail, Republicans would still hold a narrow 17-16 majority in the state Senate.
Regardless, the two Democratic victories can mean different things, depending on who is asked.
Republicans saw it as a win for the governor, and as validation of his conservative agenda, and, perhaps most notably, the polarizing proposal diminishing the collective bargaining rights of public workers.
"Republicans are going to continue doing what we promised the people of Wisconsin - improve the economy and get Wisconsin moving back in the right direction," Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said in a prepared statement after the election.
Gov. Scott Walker, also in a prepared statement, said, "In the days ahead I look forward to working with legislators of all parties to grow jobs for Wisconsin and move our state forward."
On the other side of the coin, while they fell short of regaining control of the Senate, Democrats and unions saw the two victories as a step in the right direction.
To be sure, until this year, there had been only 20 attempts in the nation since 1913 to recall any state lawmakers from office, only 13 of which were successful.
"Let's be clear, anyway you slice it, this is an unprecedented victory," Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, said.
Mary Bell, a Wisconsin Rapids teacher and president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, was also optimistic.
"The historic recall elections represent a movement to elect leaders who represent Wisconsin values. Across the state, citizens spoke up - and voiced their frustration at the direction this state has been heading under the leadership and extreme agenda of Scott Walker. Wisconsin deserves better - and high turnout across the state sends a loud wake-up call to the Wisconsin Legislature that the public is watching - and is concerned about the need to restore fairness and balance to the Legislature," Bell said.
"Flipping two Senate districts clearly indicates progress has been made - and that's a credit to voters for helping Wisconsin take a strong step forward in the battle to uphold the middle class."