4-2 GOP for control of WI State Senate
Round one of the Great Wisconsin Recall is finished and the Republicans hold on to their majority in the Wisconsin State Senate. The Democrats’ goal of taking back three seats to their side to attain the majority was unsuccessful, with the Democrats winning only two of the six recalled seats.
At 12:25 a.m. the Associated Press declared Alberta Darling the winner of the 8th Senate District with 53% of the vote to Sandy Pasch’s 47%. That was with 98% of precincts reporting, with one ward missing from Ozaukee County and one from Milwaukee County.
Darling declared victory after receiving a call from Pasch shortly before the AP made its announcement. Darling stated that both women agreed to work together to help the district go forward.
“In November the electorate said they wanted change, in April they said ‘we’re with you,’ and today they said ‘we’re with you,'” Darling said. “What we did is working, and we will continue to put Wisconsin in a growth mode for our families.”
By 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, Republicans Robert Cowles (R-Allouez), Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) and Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) were declared winners over their Democratic challengers. Democratic Rep. Jennifer Schilling beat incumbent Republican Dan Kapanke in the La Crosse area, and Democratic challenger Jessica King got past Randy Hopper in the Fox River Valley to pick up two seats for the Democrats.
By holding on to the majority, GOP party officials say the voters have given their stamp of approval for Gov. Scott Walker’s agenda for the state.
The Democrats, even though they failed to flip control of the Senate, still felt Tuesday’s election was a win. Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) welcomed King and Schilling to the Senate and said their election proved that the people of Wisconsin are not happy with the direction of the state.
Next Tuesday is the last round of general elections, these an effort to recall Democratic State Senators Robert Wirch (Kenosha) and Jim Holperin (Conover). Depending on the outcome, the GOP could gain back one or both of the seats they lost Tuesday, providing a more comfortable margin in the Senate.
The recalls, which began in the wake of the budget repair bill and have morphed into a campaign against the Walker agenda, are being watched across the nation.
While the Darling/Pasch race was still pending and the final wards to report were from Waukesha and Ozaukee counties, state Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate accused the Waukesha Clerk of sitting on ballots, while party spokesman Phil Walzak echoed Tate by bringing up the issues in Waukesha County that occurred during the 2011 Supreme Court election.
Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus called into WISN -TV to say she had posted all but one precinct and the absentee ballots in her county by 11:05 p.m.
“I was unable to post the votes until the municipal clerks forward the results to me, and I had not received the majority of the votes until 10:45.”
Tate said everyone in Waukesha County should be concerned about the incompetence of the clerk, and that Nickolaus is possibly committing criminal voter fraud. Tate said party officials are already speaking with attorneys to decide what to do with Waukesha County, even before the final count was in.
“This is very suspicious. We have probably the most incompetent clerk in the nation with control over the State Senate election,” Tate said. “Two elections in a row, she has screwed up the vote.”
Pasch spoke to her supporters minutes after Tate appeared on statewide television and thanked them for their support. At that time, she said the race was too close to call and wouldn’t comment on the statements made by the party leadership.
Senate District 8 (R)
This race, between incumbent Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. Sandy Pasch, was seen as the big prize. Darling, as co-chair of the Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee, helped shepherd Gov. Walker’s budget repair bill and 2011-13 biennial budget through the legislature to passage this spring. Taking Darling’s seat would have been considered a huge win for the Democrats and worth the investment of millions in campaign spending.
Pasch pulled ahead in the polls around 9:30 p.m. and held on to her lead as the wards in Milwaukee County continued to come in. However, Waukesha and Ozaukee counties were slow with their returns, and by 11 p.m., Darling pulled ahead as the more conservative wards in the district began reporting their votes.
Darling spoke to her supporters while waiting for Menomonee Falls and Mequon results. She said that voters sent her to Madison to do a job, to stand up for the taxpayer, and that she was confident she would return to the Capitol to fight for voters.
“We did the right thing,” Darling said.
Senate District 32 (D)
The win by Jennifer Schilling over incumbent Dan Kapanke was not a surprise – the GOP had essentially written off the district after Kapanke lost by 4 points in his race against Congressman Ron Kind in 2010. The southwestern portion of the state has become increasingly Democratic, and Schilling was considered a shoo-in for Kapanke’s seat.
Schilling handily won by a 10-point margin and will now move from the Assembly to the Senate chambers.
Senate District 2 (R)
Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Allouez) was considered a safe seat throughout the campaign, and Nancy Nusbaum, the former Brown County executive and four-time mayor of De Pere, failed to gain traction with voters. It was the first Republican win of the evening; at 9:10 p.m. the Associated Press called the race for Cowles by 20 points.
Senate District 10 (R)
Incumbent Sheila Harsdorf was the second winner of the night, beating school-teacher-challenger Shelly Moore. With 100% of the districts reporting, the Associated Press called the race for Harsdorf with 37,099 votes to Moore’s 27,250. The 10th district is in far western Wisconsin, which has seen large population increases from Minnesotans crossing the border to find relief from the sprawl of the Twin Cities. It is also considered a safe Republican district, and was added to the 7th Congressional District in an effort to make that national seat safe for the GOP.
Senate District 14 (R)
Incumbent Luther Olsen and challenger Fred Clark faced off in one of the more conservative districts in the state. With no large cities – the district is made up of Ripon (the birthplace of the Republican Party), Baraboo and New London -and no large state employers, Olsen was considered safe. Olsen has represented the area since 1994 when he was elected to the Assembly; in 2004 he won his first term to the State Senate. In the sixteen years he has held office, this race was the first time he has faced a Democratic challenger.
Olsen was the subject of a large third-party campaign to unseat him, while Clark had a major mis-step early on when he was caught on tape saying he wanted to hit a consituent who hung up on him during a campaign call.
However, when all the votes were counted Olsen maintained his 16-year winning streak, beating Clark by a 4-point margin.
Senate District 18 (D)
Incumbent Randy Hopper’s race against Jessica King was a rematch from the 2008 senate campaign. It was a narrow win for Hopper then, by only 163 votes, and this recall race went down to the wire. But King pulled it out, beating the incumbent by 1,251 votes, a 2-point margin.
The 18th district is an even mix of Republican and Democrats – rural farming region with a large public employee union presence, mulitple state correctional facilities and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. In fact, one out of eight registered voters in the 18th is a public employee and that may have been the tipping factor in this particular race.
Hopper’s opposition ran some of the dirtiest third-party ads, referencing his broken marriage and alleged mistress’ state employment as reasons to toss him from office. King’s opponents used her background as the deputy mayor of Oshkosh to attack her record of tax increases and pro-union packages.