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Gov. Scott Walker makes history, survives Wisconsin recall election (+video)

Scott Walker is the first US governor to survive a recall election. While GOP leaders see Tuesday's results as vindication of his methods, many Wisconsin voters say the recall disgusted them.

By Staff writer / June 6, 2012

Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker waves at his victory party Tuesday, June 5, in Waukesha, Wis. Walker defeated Democratic challenger Tom Barrett in a special recall election.

Morry Gash/AP

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Racine, Wis.

In a victory seen by Republicans as a mandate of a political agenda that included sharp cuts to public-sector union rights, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday became the first governor in US history to win a recall election. 

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Republican leaders in Wisconsin and throughout the US released statements late Tuesday heralding the recall victory, saying that it justifies Governor Walker's controversial methods to do away with the $3.6 billion deficit he inherited, and boosts their party's economic message in the general election.

“Wisconsin Democrats now head into November dispirited and in disarray, while Republicans remain strong and organized, with momentum on our side,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement.

IN PICTURES: Showdown in Wisconsin

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said 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.”

The Tuesday recall may have resulted in keeping Walker in office, but it removed one of four Republican state senators whose jobs were also on the line, which shifted Senate control to Democrats, 17-16. Former state Sen. John Lehman defeated incumbent Van Wanggaard, although tallies released Wednesday morning showed a tight race, which will likely trigger a recount.
 
If Mr. Lehman indeed wins the seat, the Democratic majority will hold until the November elections, when 16 of the 33 Senate seats are open.

While the recall election is rooted in policy disputes starting in February 2011 over the collective bargaining rights of public-sector unions, the debate widened to cover Walker’s entire governorship, which Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the governor's Democratic opponent, described as being driven by ideological tea party interests from outside the state. Critics said Walker was creating profound damage to Wisconsin through several policies, including his repeal of the state’s Equal Pay law, cuts to the state’s health-care program, his rejection of federal money for a high-speed rail line, and the sense that all of the above were depleting long-term job growth in a state that had already been hit hard by the recession.

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