Wirch, Holperin hold on to Democratic senate seats
Tuesday’s recall elections didn’t give the Democratic Party the Senate majority, but it did maintain the narrow 17-16 lead the Republicans now hold after last Tuesday’s elections that turned over two seats. Both Democratic incumbents – Sen. Bob Wirch (Pleasant Prairie) and Sen. Jim Holperin (Conover) – each won their respective 22nd and 12th districts by 10-point margins.
With 99 percent of the 22nd district wards reporting, Wirch had garnered 23,405 votes with Steitz at 17,703. The Associated Press called the 12th district race with 78 percent of the vote counted with Holperin receiving 23, 673 votes to Simac’s 20,066 votes.
Their Republican challengers – Jonathan Steitz in the 22nd district and Kim Simac in the 12th district, respectively – had campaigned on the idea the incumbents should be removed for leaving the state for Illinois during the budget repair bill debate.
The voters in both districts, however, decided that Wirch and Holperin should remain in their jobs.
Holperin was considered the weaker incumbent, having faced a recall in the early 1990s over Native American spearfishing rights when he was a state representative. The 12th district has become more conservative in recent years with the increase in lake homes and property rights battles, and that district voted heavily for Walker and Justice David Prosser in the last two elections. Challenger Simac is the organizer of a Tea Party group in the area and relied on the momentum of the national movement.
But Holperin did well in traditional Democratic strongholds, including the two reservations in the district and in cities such as Rhinelander, Eagle River and Merrill. Simac polled well in areas with a higher concentration of vacation properties, but when she carried Minocqua by only 115 votes early on in the tally, most pundits realized she was not going to finish the night well.
Wirch started out the evening behind, as the early returns came in from Burlington and Pleasant Prairie. But when the city of Kenosha turned in its poll results, Wirch jumped ahead and held on for the night. He said the result of the election sends a message to the Republican Party.
“We have to get away from extremism and get back to compromise, I think that is the message of this election,” Wirch said following the announcement of his win.
He had campaigned on his record and history in the district – born and raised in the Kenosha area and working in one of the many, now-shuttered factories that once made the city strong. He faced a late campaign ad that challenged whether he had anything to do with packaging giant Uline moving its headquarters from Illinois to Pleasant Prairie, but it was too little, too late, to stop the huge union and Democratic party get-out-the-vote movement behind Wirch.
The turnout for the two elections was high, running similar voting percentages as last week’s Republican recalls. In Minocqua, turnout was on pace for 2,100 voters, 200 shy of the turnout in the 2010 election. Lines were reported throughout the Kenosha districts all day, with a small hiccup in the early hours as poll workers failed to open polling places on time.
What does this election mean for politics in Wisconsin in the short term? Not much. The Republicans still control the Senate (albeit with a slimmer margin), the Assembly and the Governor’s mansion, so the Walker agenda will move forward. However, there may be more willingness on the part of Republican Senators to compromise after seeing their majority shaved to one vote.
So enjoy the pause in the attack ads and constant commercials on TV and radio for the next four months, because in January this whole circus will come back to town.
Photo on front page courtesy of ToBeRight on blogspot.