6/8/2012 4:35:00 AM Walker thumps Barrett as voters rebuke the recall Vilas, Oneida counties all contribute toward governor's win
Gov. Scott Walker makes a point in his speech after the Recall Election was declared in his favor. Lisa Moore photograph
Gov. Scott Walker made his way through the crowd after being declared the winner in Tuesday’s Recall Election. Lisa Moore photograph
Kleefisch wins; Democrats likely to take Senate
By Richard Moore of The Lakeland Times
Gov. Scott Walker scored a major victory in the state’s unprecedented recall election Tuesday, overwhelming Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett and becoming the first governor in the nation’s history to survive a recall election.
Walker did it in a big way, too, winning 53 percent of the vote, which far exceeded expectations. Pre-election polls had shown the governor clinging to a narrow lead, never moving beyond the 50-percent marker and sitting well within the margins of error. Walker thus becomes the state’s only governor to win two elections during a single term and cemented his status as a national conservative leader.
Incumbent Republican Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch also won re-election with 53 percent of the vote, defeating the Democratic nominee, Madison union leader Mahlon Mitchell.
While the governor’s decisive win was immediately cast as a rebuke to public-sector unions, the night wasn’t a complete loss for the Democratic Party. In a close race, former Sen. John Lehman (D-Racine) apparently defeated Republican incumbent Van Wanggaard. A recount in that race might be in the making.
The final tally gave Lehman 36,255 votes to Wanggaard’s 35,476, for a 779-vote lead. Assuming the lead holds, the Democrats will control the Senate by one seat, 17-16.
Three other Republican candidates handily defeated their Democratic challengers. Sen. Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau whizzed past Democrat Lori Compas of Fort Atkinson; state Rep. Jerry Petrowski of Stettin defeated Rep. Donna Seidel of Wausau; and Sen. Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls defeated former Rep. Kristen Dexter of Eau Claire.
Walker talks about courage
Wearing a red tie with a blue shirt and rolled-up sleeves, Walker strode to the stage to claim victory at the Waukesha County Exposition Center at about 10 p.m., speaking to an overflow crowd that was ecstatic and roisterous. Walker spoke of the Founding Fathers, whom he said he viewed as superheroes as a child. But as an adult, Walker said, he realized they were just ordinary people who did something extraordinary.
“They didn’t just risk their political careers, they didn’t just risk their businesses, they literally risked their lives for the freedom we hold so dear today,” Walker said.
What has made the nation exceptional and one of the greatest countries in history, the governor said, is that in times of crisis, whether economic or fiscal, military or spiritual, throughout the nation’s history men and women of courage have stood up and decided it was more important to look out for the future of their children and grandchildren than for their own political futures. And what sustains those people are the multitudes of citizens who are willing to stand with them, shoulder to shoulder, he said.
“Tonight we tell Wisconsin, we tell our country, and we tell people all across the globe that voters really do want leaders that stand up and make the tough decisions,” Walker said.
Now that the election was over, he continued, it was time to move the state forward and for everyone to work together to do so.
“Tomorrow is the day after the election, and tomorrow we are no longer opponents,” Walker said. “Tomorrow, we are one as Wisconsinites.” Walker said he planned to convene his cabinet immediately to get back to work helping small businesses create jobs and to improve the quality of life for all Wisconsinites.
He also said he would invite lawmakers of both parties to a cookout with brats and burgers and perhaps “a bit of Wisconsin beer” to begin to heal divisions.
In her victory speech, Kleefisch turned one of the Democrats’ favorite slogans against them. “Now this is what democracy looks like,” she told the jubilant crowd. “Years from now they will say the campaign to save America began tonight in Wisconsin.”
For his part, Barrett thanked his supporters and urged them to stay engaged in the fight for justice. “Never, ever stop doing what you think is right,” Barrett said. “That’s what makes this such a great country.” Barrett said both sides needed to listen to each other.
“We are a state that is deeply divided,” he said. “At the end of the day we need to do what is right for Wisconsin families.” Assembly Democratic leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said he was willing to work with Walker but also cautioned that the state was still divided.
“On both sides, I believe the people are ready to end the polarization of the past 17 months,” Barca said. “... There is a lot of work to do in healing our divided state. I hope Gov. Walker understands and stays true to his pledge to build consensus and be more inclusive going forward. And I will continue to extend my hand to work on the issues the people of Wisconsin care about – creating good-paying jobs, closing the skills gap and ensuring a quality education for our students.”
A quick knockout
At the stroke of eight o’clock Tuesday night, the doors at the Waukesha Exposition Center swung open for the public, and the crowd surged in and spilled into an adjacent tent erected to handle the expected excess of supporters.
Rock music blared – everything from Paul McCartney to country – and the crowd, obviously confident from the beginning, cheered wildly as the earliest of returns showed Walker with a lead. Political insiders weren’t cheering yet, though, because the Washington Post reported that exit polls were dead even between the two candidates; every major media outlet was calling the race too close to call. Most observers prepared to hunker down for a nailbiter and to wait until the wee hours of the morning to find a winner. Insiders weren’t certain who that winner would be, either. One observer called it the typical “election night fog.” Nobody, he said, really knew what the outcome would be.
And then, it was over.
An expected 15-rounder was done in about two, as suddenly NBC called Walker the winner with only 15 percent of the votes counted. The other major news media weren’t far behind, saying Walker would eke out a narrow win.
As the vote totals climbed, though, a narrow win grew into a decisive victory. WTMJ splashed “Walker wins big” over the screen, and the Walker crowd began to chant, “Recall that!” Indeed, the governor was sustaining large margins in places where Republican enthusiasm needed to remain high, while Barrett was not pulling the votes he needed to in the western part of the state. For example, both Barack Obama and Jim Doyle carried Eau Claire and La Crosse counties, and Democrats had hoped Barrett could put them back in the Democratic column with healthy margins.
But Walker actually squeaked out a win in Eau Claire, by a whisker, and Barrett only won La Crosse narrowly with 51 percent of the vote. Barrett did do what he needed to do in Milwaukee County, netting 63 percent there – 60 percent is the benchmark for Democrats to be able to win statewide – and also in Dane County, where he gained a 98,000-vote margin with 69 percent of the vote, a bit higher than his 68-percent margin in 2010.
But Waukesha County again canceled out Dane, giving the incumbent governor a nearly 100,000-vote margin with 72 percent. The governor added muscle to his total in Washington County, where he garnered 75 percent. He also rolled up 70 percent of the vote, and a 20,000-vote margin, in Ozaukee County.
In the end, the state looked mostly red with a few pockets of urban blue. Barrett won only 12 of the state’s 72 counties. Walker won handily in Oneida County with 58 percent of the vote; he carried Vilas with 63 percent of the vote. Turnout was not quite what was expected or what was being reported by officials during Election Day.
About 2.5 million voters cast ballots, falling below the GAB’s prediction of between 2.6 million and 2.8 million voters. That translated into about 56 percent of the voting-age population; the GAB had predicted a turnout of between 60 and 65 percent.
Richard Moore may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Turning back a recall effort that began with the collection of more than 900,000 signatures seeking his ouster, Gov. Scott Walker received more votes in Tuesday’s win over Democratic challenger Tom Barrett than he did when he won the seat back in 2010 – and he did it by winning big across the state, including Vilas and Oneida counties. Walker earned 53 percent of the vote to Barrett’s 46 percent.
The margin of victory was wider than many expected and slightly better than Walker’s 5.8 percentage-point victory over Barrett in the 2010 race. Some 2.5 million voters cast ballots. Walker’s victory was so widespread that he won victories in all but 12 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties.
Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch also easily won in her recall election by nearly the same margin as Walker in defeating Democrat and Milwaukee firefighter Mahlon Mitchell. The local numbers
Both Vilas and Oneida counties voted in favor of Walker and Kleefisch. According to Vilas County clerk Dave Alleman, 75 percent of that county’s active voters turned out at the polls Tuesday – 11,537 people cast their ballots in Vilas County of 15,362 active voters.
“Turnout was very heavy,” Alleman said. “In fact, it was one percentage point higher than the percentage of people who voted in the 2008 presidential election. It was a bit strange though because in some of the larger towns voter turnout was lower, but in some of the smaller towns it was higher. The town of Plum Lake had the largest percentage of voter turnout in Vilas County with 358 of the 422 active voters in the town casting ballots Tuesday for a voting percentage of 85 percent. The town of Arbor Vitae had the largest number of voters in Vilas County cast their ballots – 1,737 – 75 percent. “We had an excellent turnout.
It was really equal to what we would have for a presidential race,” Mary Reuland, Arbor Vitae town clerk, said. “There were no glitches. For most of the day people had to wait in line about 20 minutes to be able to vote.” In Oneida County’s town of Minocqua Scott Walker received 1,726 votes, Tom Barrett received 874 and Hari Trivedi was third with just 16 votes.
“We had a very heavy voter turnout of about 76 percent,” Minocqua town clerk Roben Haggart said. “I was also surprised by the number of high school age voters who were voting for the first time.” According to Haggart, 142 registered at the town’s polls on Election Day to vote. “That is a tremendous number to have that many register at the polls,” Haggart said. “I think the highest we ever had before was about 75.” Haggart said the town also had a record number of absentee voters – 419. In the town of Woodruff, 1,051 electors cast their ballots – 667 for Walker, 373 for Barrett and nine for Hari Trivedi.
Town clerk Kim Albano said 70 percent of the active town voters cast their ballots Tuesday.
“We had 999 people vote in the governor’s election in 2010. So we had a few more this time,” Albano said. “It was a heavy turnout all day.”
Albano said many who were voting for the first time or hadn’t voted in a long time decided to come to the polls Tuesday. “There was one older couple who said they hadn’t voted since the Kennedy election,” Albano said. “There were others who said they hadn’t voted for a long time and there were others who said they had never voted before that include some who had just turned 18 or others who just recently registered.” Albano said 65 people registered to vote at the polls Tuesday which she is a very large number. Republican Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch received 1,690 votes in the town of Minocqua compared with Democrat Mahlon Mitchell’s 866.
Walker said he is now focusing his message on what lies ahead. His term runs through 2014 in a state that is still bitterly divided over his move to end collective bargaining rights for most public employees. “Bringing our state together will take some time, but I hope to start right away,” Gov. Walker said. “It is time to put our differences aside and figure out ways that we can move Wisconsin forward. I think it’s important to fix things, but it’s also important to make sure we talk about it and involve people in the process.”
Walker plans to invite all members of the Legislature to meet as soon as next week over burgers, brats and “maybe a little bit of good Wisconsin beer” to try to bring both sides together for the good of the state. “The first step is just bringing people together and figuring out some way if we can thaw the ice,” he said.
Local lawmakers react
Republican Tom Tiffany who represents Wisconsin’s 35th Assembly District said he was “very pleased” with Tuesday’s results. “The Legislature worked with the governor with a number of reforms and it’s good that we are seeing positive results and the governor’s actions have been reaffirmed by the voters,” Tiffany said. “There’s proof now that these reforms are working and the voters want to continue with those reforms.” Tiffany said there are two big points that come from the recall election results. “One point is clearly the people do not believe in recall elections. The second is that Mayor Barrett clearly did not have a message for the voters.
He just kept saying that Gov. Walker was dividing the state, but he would not say what he would do. It was clear he did not have a plan or a clear message.” Fellow Republican Dan Meyer, who represents the Assembly’s 34th District said he wasn’t surprised by Walker’s victory, but by the large margin of his win. “I thought he was going to win of course, but I don’t think anyone thought it could be by this large of a margin,” Meyer said.
“I believe his victory is good for the state and it shows the voters are accepting and supporting his policies and reforms.” State Sen. Jim Holperin, D-Conover, said he wasn’t surprised by Walker’s margin of victory in the Northwoods, but he didn’t expect the governor to win by seven points statewide.
“I’m sure this is a very disappointing outcome for all the people who worked hard on the recall,” said Holperin, who was one of 14 senators to leave the state in 2011 in a budget dispute with the newly-elected governor. Holperin, who is not running for re-election, said it’s too early to tell what effect the recall results will have in Madison. “We’ll see what happens,” he said. “I don’t have a much better sense of what will happen in this state than anyone else. “We’ll see how it goes.”
However, he doesn’t expect fundamental changes in Walker’s approach to governing the state. “We’ve got essentially the same administration as before,” Holperin said. Parties’ reaction
Wisconsin Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate showed no remorse for pursuing the recall, which was pushed by union leaders and citizens with little or no political experience. “This is a fight worth having,” Tate said. “Some things are worth losing over.” “While tonight’s outcome was not what we had hoped for – no one can dispute the strong message sent to Gov. Walker. Hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites from all walks of life took a stand against the politics of division and against the flood of secret and corporate money spent on behalf of Scott Walker, Tripp Wellde, state director of Obama for America-Wisconsin, said.
Vilas County Republican Party chairperson Carol Cady couldn’t hide her happiness in Gov. Walker’s election victory. In Oneida County, Democratic Pary chairman Paul Knuth said it’s now up to Walker to heal the political divisions in the state.
“We ask [Walker] to join us to change the tenor and tone of the debate,” Knuth said. “Unions must be able to bargain collectively and provide workers protections.” Oneida County Republican Party chairman Andy Loduha of Rhinelander said, “If [Walker] lost, it would’ve been tough. I would’ve been a little depressed. “I think the governor said it all last night,” Loduha said.
“When Barrett’s name came up, there was booing, but Walker said, no that’s not where we’re at right now. We have to move forward. I’m hoping the other side will see that.” But it likely will take time, he acknowledged.
“The reality is at some point we’re Americans before Republicans or Democrats.” Loduha said. Knuth expressed similar sentiments. “Regardless of party, Wisconsin must be Wisconsin again,” he said.
Walker “What a victory,” said Cady. “Gov. Walker and Lt. Gov. (Rebecca) Kleefisch stood with the people of Wisconsin and did not allow special interest groups to dictate their actions. The people have said in this vote that they want the governor to continue what he’s doing and keep working toward fiscal responsibility.”
Meanwhile, the likely Republican candidate for president, Mitt Romney, congratulated Walker on his victory. “Gov. Walker has demonstrated over the past year what sound fiscal policies can do to turn an economy around, and I believe that in November voters across the country will demonstrate that they want the same in Washington, D.C.,” Romney said.
“Tonight’s results will echo beyond the borders of Wisconsin.” More than $66 million was spent on the race as of May 21, making it easily the most expensive in Wisconsin history. That money was spent on an all-out barrage of television ads, direct mail, automated calls and other advertising that permeated the state for months.
Editor’s note: Some portions of this story were provided by the Associated Press.
Joe VanDeLaarschot may be reached at email@example.com.