Patti Wenzel
Round one done

4-2 GOP for control of WI State Senate

By - Aug 9th, 2011 11:37 pm
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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.

Voter turnout was at presidential levels, with Shorewood’s clerk reporting they had 64% turnout and 70% turning out at Homestead High School in Mequon. Many voters commented on social media sites that they were waiting in lines throughout the state and some polls stayed open past the mandated closing time of 8 p.m.

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)

Alberta Darling

St. Sen. Alberta Darling held off a challenge from Rep. Sandy Pasch.

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.

Jennifer Schilling

Rep. Jennifer Schilling (D-La Crosse) moves up to the State Senate after beating incumbent Dan Kapanke.

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.

Robert Cowles

St. Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Alluez) wins reelection.

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.

Sheila Harsdorf

St. Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (River Falls) wins reelection.

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.


Luther Olsen

St. Senator Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) returns to Madison after prevailing in the recall election.

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.

Jessica King

Oshkosh Deputy Mayor Jessica King defeats incumbent St. Sen. Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac)

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.

0 thoughts on “Round one done: 4-2 GOP for control of WI State Senate”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Voting has begun in Wisconsin today as union employees fight for their economic rights.

  2. Anonymous says:

    So Dems got two-thirds of what they sought and state Sen. Dale Schultz is not a lockstep Repub vote — recall he sought a compromise last winter. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Your headline is so wrong. It’s 4-3 (a Dem won a race already). And it will be 4-5 next week. Considering that it starting with 6 GOP and 3 Dems, and will end up 4 GOP and 5 Dems, what does that tell you?

  4. Anonymous says:

    How stupid. How blind and narcissistic the voters of Wisconsin are, which is not surprising as narcissism and co-dependency are epidemic in the USA and these conditions completely skew perception. Republicanism is the party of the hard heart that doesn’t feel. Republicans do not have an ounce of empathy or compassion for American workers rights, nor do they for the old, the infirm, and minorities. Republicanism is nothing but codified and politicized narcissism. Hence why republicans can rush to war, murder 1,000,000 people, and not even blink an eyelash. Stupid, foolish Americans…you brought yourselves to this pathetic place you are at and neither the economy nor your government will ever improve as you are making utterly stupid electoral decisions.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Robert, I can’t agree with your assessment. Wisconsin government (as is our federal government) is broke and in debt. The Republicans have a long term vision. They see that if the fiscal house is not put in order, there will be NO MONEY to pay state workers or for programs to take care of the old, the infirm and the poor. (Interesting to note that in your post, you don’t say the “poor” but “minorities” instead insinuating that all minorities are poor) The Wisconsin gov’t employees had the sweetest deal in the country before the recent changes. The contributed NOTHING, not ONE PENNY of their pay, to their retirement plans or their health insurance. Other gov’t workers in other states continue to contribute far more of their pay to their insurance and retirement, EVEN AFTER Walker’s changes.

  6. Anonymous says:

    @Robert, wow, what deeply stupid statement you make. What does narcissism have to do with anything? Wisconsin voters voted for Republicans because they love themselves? What does that even mean? Do you even know what the word narcissism means, or are you just spitting it out because you like the way it sounds?

    And here’s a news flash for you, you unthinking moron, according to, we’ve had more causalities in Afghanistan (The Good War) under Obama, than under all 8 years of Bush Jr. So drag out your smelly hippie drums and bells and prepare to protest your current President.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Uh, I’m a public employee and I paid into both my health plan and my retirement plan prior to Walker taking office. Neither were “Free.” I’ve also never been eligible for either a merit based pay increase or a cost of living increase and our compensation in the form of benefits was what we were allowed in lieu of regular pay raises. It’s what we bargained for, after conceding increases in pay. The reasoning behind it was that it was saving the government more to pay a greater percentage of our benefits than to give us the pay increases that are standard practice in the private sector. After 7 years with the organization, I still make the same base pay amount, only now with the “shared sacrifice” I will see $4,500 less a year from my paychecks. So, please stop with the hyperbole about what public employees get and pay for and the “our state is BROKE” nonsense. We know it’s a lie, we know the reasons behind the shortfall, no one is buying that B.S. any longer.

  8. Anonymous says:

    First of all Angela, who is the one telling a lie after reading your sob story? Secondly, only having $4500 per year less is nothing to what many Americans have faced over the past 3 years. Lastly, yes the state and country being broke is complete B.S. You and others with your class warfare rhetoric is getting old and obnoxious. Ummm, put the crack pipe down and walk away slowly.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Being a jerk doesn’t make your rhetoric any more true.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Karen — Oops, Wisconsin is not broke. Over 90% throughout the Republican-caused Great Recession have been employed and the richest have had federal taxes lowered. What’s broke is the will to act for the People and tax those who have the money to get us through this version of Republican incompetance. I canvassed during recent recalls, and one person said she had pulled herself up by her bootstraps – who made and provided her boots? Larry Sanders, former Journal editorial cartoonist, had it correct with Reagan admonishing Central American campesino to pull himself up by his bootstraps, failing to note he was barefoot. She responded to my citation of the Revolutionary flag that showed a chopped up snake with the caption “Unite or Die” with the comment that we are too united – never mind the Constitution’s citation that we must perfect our union. Ah, ignorance is pissed, the rest of us dissed. Tax raises under Reagan and Clinton resulted in more jobs and a more vigorous economy. Why? Those contentedly sitting on hoards, with no incentive whatsoever to spend it, had to get busy. Please explain why those with un-taxed hoards would be required to invest instead of relax. And, perhaps your fantasies obscure the verities – you get what you pay for. A well-compensated cadre of government employees has provided the nation’s best services, including education and many well-regulated Fortune 500 headquarters. Adios to all that – thanks, you short-sighted fundamentalists.

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