It’s official. Last week the Government Accountability Board certified the recall of Governor Scott Walker, the Lt. Governor and 4 GOP state senators (one who has since resigned). The Board also set the dates for the election. A primary will be held on May 8th, and it looks likely it will be a contentious one for Democrats and the general will be held on June 5th.
Unions and the left are already salivating at the prospects of retaking the senate and executive office but Walker will be prepared for the challenge. Since the beginning of last year Walker’s campaign has been raising cash and in big chunks. At the beginning of this year alone Walker had $5 million in the bank. It is only likely since then his fundraising has picked up. Furthermore, outside groups like the Tea Party Express and GPS Crossroads are already on the ground airing ads on his behalf and putting together a get out the vote operation.
Unions and the left on the other hand, while flush with cash and energized supporters, will have to deal with a primary they had hoped to avoid. The two most likely Democratic nominees to come out of the primary would either be former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk or 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nominee and mayor of Detroit Tom Barrett. The other Democrats running are SofS Doug Lafollete and state senator Kathleen Vinehout. Falk is a favorite of the unions while Barrett has the backing of establishment Democrats statewide. Both have shown no signs of backing down and look ready to batter each other for the right to face Walker.
The recall announcement comes on the heels of a federal judge overturning some key aspects of the reform law. US District Judge William Conley overturned a part of the law that banned public workers from allowing union dues to be withdrawn from their paychecks. He also shot down part of the law that stated a majority of all union members, not just those voting, support stayed organized in annual elections. However, the linchpin of the law, stripping teachers and certain government workers from being able to bargain for their benefits and salary, was allowed to stand.
Wisconsin has already seen two bouts of frenzied election activity. The first occurred in the spring of 2011 when the state’s usually sleepy Supreme Court race became a lightning rod for the left. Eventually, the conservative Justice squeaked by to reelection and shortly thereafter the law was ruled Constitutional by the court.
But unions and the left were not done. They continued to stay organized and pumped money into the state. Soon after the dust had settled from the state Supreme Court race unions announced they were pursuing recalls against six GOP state senators. They succeeded. Conservative groups in the meantime succeeded in recalling three Democratic state senators. The result was essentially a draw. The GOP succeeded in recalling no Democratic senators. Meanwhile Democrats defeated two extremely flawed GOP state senators but failed to recall the other four. As a result the GOP narrowly held onto the state senate 17-16.
But Round III was coming. In the Fall of 2011 the unions announced they would pursue a recall of Walker, Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, and four more GOP state senators. Over two million signatures (many duplicates or fakes) were submitted in early January of 2012 and soon after the GAB certified enough valid signatures to recall Walker, his Lt. Governor and 4 GOP state senators.
Now that race is fast approaching and the WI electorate remains deeply divided over the law. Some surveys show the reform having over 50% support, others below. And polls have jumped around whether Walker should be favored or not for the recall.
While unions and the left claim they have momentum and support on their side a new NBC/Marist poll disagreed. The poll was taken for the GOP presidential primary (Romney led), but the survey found well over 50% of GOP voters were very interested in the recall. In other words, if the left and union have a steady supply of energy and support to build on, so does Walker and the GOP.
Further complicating things will be the recalls of the four GOP state senators, Scott Fitzgerald, Van Wanggaard, Terry Moulton, and Pam Galloway. Galloway resigned last week which split the senate at 16-16 until the recalls are decided in June. Due to the new redistricting maps the GOP passed last year these three incumbents, and their challengers, will be running in new districts that encompass new territory.
Van Waggaard is the biggest beneficiary of the new map. His district turns from a district that backed Walker by 9 points in 2010 to one that backed Walker by 23 in 2010. State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald’s district turns from one that backed Walker by single digits to one that would have backed him by double-digits in 2010. The Democrats best shot may lay in taking the competitive races of either Terry Moultan’s 23rd seat or the open 29th. Both lie in Western Wisconsin and are largely rural. Both remain competitive under the new map but as a result of redistricting lean GOP according to Walker’s 2010 vote totals in the redrawn districts.
The state GOP has said it will run fake Democrats in the Democratic primaries in each state, ensuring Democrats will not be able to breeze through any of the state senate primaries. By extension, all the state GOP senators facing recalls have boatloads of cash and will not face primaries. This means Democrats eyes may thus fall on Galloway’s open 29th district
Union and the left have made this a last stand for their cause. But the public of WI remains deeply divided and polarized over the issue. If the left and the unions fail yet again they may cut their losses and focus on 2012 and getting Obama reelected. They may also focus on holding Democratic numbers and the assembly in 2012 as several Democratic assembly members and senators have been drawn out of their districts under the new map. And lastly, the left may content itself with the fact in 2014 Walker will get his.
For the right and conservative causes WI represents even more. The right is batting 1-1 in terms of combatting unions in states. Ohio’s SB-5 was soundly defeated in November 2011. Yet Indiana recently became a right to work state. If the right can hold its own in the battleground state of WI they may believe they can finally win the battle against union power and influence in elections.
One thing is for sure. On June 5th, Wisconsin Round III will be decided.