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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.

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Walker insisted that reforms were needed to mitigate Wisconsin’s economic crisis and that he had no choice, if raising taxes and issuing mass layoffs were off the table. He pointed to the state’s falling unemployment rate and balanced budget as evidence that he succeeded.

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“You cannot do all those things unless you make long-term structural reforms,” he said in a debate with Mayor Barrett last week.

The recall election did not arrive without inflicting an emotional toll on voters. By the time Tuesday rolled around, Wisconsin voters had already voted in a recall election to replace nine state senators of both parties, with unprecedented spending reaching $44 million, a state record.

Voters headed back to the polls this year for the Democratic primary between Barrett and Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. In total, spending in the 2011 and 2012 recall reached about $100 million, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a watchdog group in Madison. The majority of the spending came from special-interest groups located outside the state.

For voters on both sides of the aisle who are already struggling through a troubled economy, the ballooning spending on the election became a prime example of misguided politics. For many, they voted out of disgust at the wasted money and frustration that they were forced to return to the polls for reasons that were starting to become foggy.

“There is no reason for this recall,” said Bob McHenry, a woodworker who stood outside a polling place in Racine, Wis., Tuesday afternoon. “It’s a waste of money we could be spending on other things to help our state, but we’re not.”

In his speech late Tuesday at the Waukesha County Exposition Center, Walker said that the results affirmed his “tough decisions,” and he stressed that he wanted to heal a state that had become polarized in the first 1-1/2 years of his term. “Tomorrow we are no longer opponents, we are one as Wisconsinites,” he said, adding that he planned to invite all the members of the state legislature out for “brats and some burgers.”

He also gave the sense he may have been too brash, after he was first elected in 2010, to enact his policies quickly and with little consideration of how it would inflame the opposition.

"I learned much over the last year and a half. Early in 2011, I rushed to fix things without talking about it,” he said. “I believe we can move on.”

IN PICTURES: Showdown in Wisconsin

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