Democrats win in latest Wisconsin recall. Is state a little less red now?
Two Democratic state senators kept their seats in Tuesday's Wisconsin recall election. Republicans still hold the legislature, but less comfortably. They are now more likely to tailor policy to independent voters, say analysts.
Republicans in Wisconsin’s Senate will retain their razor-edge margin over Democrats in the wake of a special recall election Tuesday.Skip to next paragraph
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Voters allowed two Democratic incumbent senators to retain their seats, meaning Republicans have just a one-vote majority in the Senate, 17 to 16. That's a narrower margin than before this month's spate of recall elections. Expectations are that it will push Gov. Scott Walker (R) toward a legislative agenda that holds greater appeal for Democrats or that is handled more sensitively than the so-called “budget repair bill” from February, which so angered Democrats that they fled the state to prevent a vote on it.
The reshuffling is expected to make it more difficult for the Republican majority to pass controversial legislation such as stricter restrictions on abortion rights or harsher penalties for illegal immigrants.
An earlier recall election, held Aug. 9, dashed Democrats' hopes of seizing control of the Senate, but it did roll over two Republican seats in their favor. For Republicans, that represented a retrenchment from their gains of the 2010 midterm elections, which swept them into power in both houses of state government and the governor's office.
Both Democratic senators up for recall Tuesday managed double-digit victories. With 95 percent of precincts reporting in District 12 by midnight, Sen. Jim Holperin (D) defeated Kim Simac, a tea party organizer, 55 to 45 percent. In the District 22 race, Sen. Bob Wirch (D) defeated Jonathan Steitz, a corporate attorney, 58 percent to 42 percent, with all precincts reporting.
Senator Wirch’s district represents Kenosha and much of the area in southeast Wisconsin close to the Illinois border. Senator Holperin’s district lies in the northernmost area of the state alongside Green Bay.
Two weeks of recall elections gave both parties an opportunity to declare victory.
In holding their majority, Republicans claimed that voters were less than thrilled to recast votes for state senators they fully supported all along. They also said voters rejected the idea that kicking out their Republican senators served as a de facto referendum on Walker’s legislation, which Democrats portrayed as hostile to public-sector unions and the middle class.
For their part, Democrats claimed they succeeded in creating a Senate that will be less of a rubber stamp for Walker's policies. They also said the closer margin will help to give Democrats their voices back just in time for the 2012 national election cycle.
Telling the Associated Press that Tuesday’s recall election “fundamentally changed the face of power in the Wisconsin legislature,” Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate suggested that, “at the end of this historic recall effort, Democrats have the momentum.”
Republicans are casting the recall process as “political games” by embittered Democrats, according to Republican Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald. “Democrats need to start working with the other side of the aisle, not just moving on to their next recall target,” Senator Fitzgerald said in a statement released Tuesday.