FINAL Recall Election Edition
The votes have been counted and the results are in: Scott Walker is still Wisconsin's Governor, the first in U.S. history to survive a recall election.
Republican Governor Scott Walker is the big winner, receiving 53 percent of the votes. Walker becomes the first governor in American history to retain his status as governor after a recall, winning by a slightly larger margin than when he originally gained the state’s top spot in 2010. The results weren’t exactly surprising, as the majority of polls leading up to the election showed Walker with the lead. Republican voters have shown astonishing consistency in their support of Walker. The battle began when Walker introduced his budget in February of 2011 for legitimate reasons: Act 10 closed a budget deficit while giving arguably unfair tax advantages to big business at the expense of education, public health and public workers. And in the 16 months since, there has been no inclination Walker’s far-right politics will move any closer to the center or offer substantive chance for compromise, despite Walker’s claim to the contrary from his Waukesha victory podium Tuesday night.
More than 2.4 million Wisconsinites cast votes in the election. Election day reports indicated record turnout with close to 90 percent in Whitefish Bay, and near-record turnout in each party’s respective bases in Madison for Dems and southeastern Wisconsin’s suburban counties for the GOP.
Several media outlets have drawn links between Wisconsin’s recall election and the presidential election this fall. Unfortunately, this is the type of insane thinking that dominates large portions of today’s increasingly myopic media, and flies in the face of exit polls from Tuesday’s election, which still give Obama a comfortable lead in the state. There are still another five full months of American life to happen before Election Day. Nevertheless, this election is inarguably an enormous boost to the Republican Party, and may embolden conservative governors in other states who have been hanging back to see what happens here.
Money also had a significant impact on this election, the most expensive in the state’s history, at $63 million. Walker was able to raise unlimited funds from the day the recall signatures were submitted, while Democrats were still searching for candidates and conducting a primary. Walker out-funded Barrett by $31 million to $4 million, with conservative Super PACS contributing far more in “indirect support,” and the majority of Walker’s dollars coming from out of state.
Though not technically a winner, Democrat Mahlon Mitchell received more than 1.1 million votes in his bid to become Wisconsin’s Lieutenant Governor. The speech he gave in concession Tuesday night was strong, and Mitchell may now have an opportunity to assume a larger role in the Democratic Party as they start to rebuild.
(UPDATE) 6. State Senator-elect, John Lehman*
The only Democratic candidate with a recall victory on Tuesday night was Racine state senate candidate John Lehman, who defeated Republican incumbent Van Wanggaard by a razor-thin margin of 779 votes, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. A win for Lehman would shift the balance in the State Senate in favor of the Democrats, although with such a slim margin, a recount is extremely likely (hence the above asterisk).
Tom Barrett lost in his third bid for governor. Despite strong moments in Thursday’s debate and a hometown rally with President Clinton that seemed to carry momentum through the final weekend, Barrett came up short once again. Luckily, Milwaukee is a big city and there is much that will require mayoral attention in the coming years, so he’ll still have an opportunity to make a difference as a public official in the state of Wisconsin.
But Barrett failed to capture votes in key regions outside of Milwaukee and Madison, such as Green Bay and the Fox Valley, the Milwaukee turnout was still shy of 2008 numbers. Before the election, the Marquette University Law Poll showed that Republican support for Walker was over 90 percent, while Barrett’s percentage among Democrats was merely 77. The enthusiasm for the Milwaukee mayor was just never there.
Barrett backed into the candidacy (as predicted in Dec. 22 edition of TCD’s Winners & Losers), and never truly presented to voters a clear vision of what he would do as governor. He wins the Integrity Contest hands down, but he was clearly not the right candidate for this election.
People rose up in protest in historic droves, and more than one million people signed petitions to recall Scott Walker. But in the end, Democrats came up short in their efforts to thwart the Budget Repair Bill and recall the governor. In February, the Wisconsin 14 raced to Illinois to prevent a quorum, but ultimately Act 10 was passed. When Kloppenburg faced Prosser to tip the majority in the State Supreme Court, Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus ruined her good news with piles of uncounted Republican votes. State Senate and Assembly recalls failed to flip the majority in the State Legislature. And the third gubernatorial recall in American history is now the only to have failed. The recall campaign was run poorly, a candidate was chosen too late, and the Democratic Party failed to relay the outrage many held toward the Republican governor’s actions into any meaningful electoral success. The consequences could be far-reaching, as Walker’s victory creates a blueprint for upcoming Republican races, according to Rachel Maddow and others.
3. Wisconsin Public Unions
It hardly needs further explanation, but Walker’s victory in this election is devastating for public unions everywhere. It’s hard to imagine what their future holds, if such a future exists. Cries for “union reform” have already sprung up across the nation.
4. Voter Suppression Efforts
Several reports indicated that people were being told by way of robocall that if they had signed a petition to recall the governor, they did not have to go to the polls to cast their votes. Politics is a dirty business, but American democracy in 2012 should be above these tactics.
5. Major news networks
News networks projected Scott Walker as the winner while individuals were still voting in Milwaukee, where certain locations were running low on registration forms in the final hour. Much to the dismay of the Government Accountability Board, television stations were broadcasting interviews with voters who were in line even after the election had been called by the majority of major news networks.