(Ed. note: this is an expanded version of a quick post that went up yesterday)
Time to take a look at the hottest political story of the summer; the Wisconsin recalls. The giant protests over Governor Scott Walker’s controversial union busting bill (which went into effect yesterday) are mostly over and the Wisconsin capitol is back to normal business. And the recall races are slated to happen in July and August. Can Democrats in the Wisconsin Senate take back control? The Senate is currently split with 19 Republicans and 14 Democrats which means the Democrats would need to pick up three seats to hold a majority.
Here’s what has happened so far. Signatures were collected to successfully recall six Republican and three Democratic Senators. But the Republicans have employed a tactic calling for ‘fake’ or ‘protest’ challengers. These are Republicans running as Democrats against the Democrats thereby forcing a primary. This serves a couple of purposes: if a fake challenger wins it would negate the recall (or give a really creative fake challenger a shot at unseating a sitting Senator in mid-term*), and it also delays the actual recall election until August. Not being ones to miss out on an opportunity, the Democrats have also elected to run fake challengers for the Republican recall candidates. Here are the recall challengers and their ‘fake’ primary challengers. The incumbents that the winner will be facing are bolded in parentheses.
John Nygren vs. David VanderLeest (Dave Hansen) in the 30th
Kim Simac vs. Robert Lussow (Jim Holperin) in the 12th
Fred Ekornaas vs. Jonathan Steitz (Bob Wirch) in the 22nd
Nancy Nusbaum vs. Otto Junkerman (Robert Cowles) in the 2nd
Sandy Pasch vs. Gladys Huber (Alberta Darling) in the 8th
Shelly Moore vs. Issax Weix (Shelia Harsdorf) in the 10th
Fred Clark vs. Rol Church (Luther Olsen) in the 14th
Jessica King vs. John Buckstaff (Randy Hopper) in the 18th
Jennifer Shilling vs. James Smith (Dan Kapanke) in the 32nd
Some things have happened in these match-ups or will need to happen before they can take place. Representative John Nygren, the leading Republican challenger for Democratic Senator Dave Hanson, was recently disqualified for lack of valid signatures. He needed 400 and he turned in 440 but several were challenged and he wound up with 398 valid signatures (ouch). So the recall election for Hanson will be July 19th. The other two districts with Democratic recalls will be primaries on that date.
There are also numerous challenges moving through the courts so things could change quickly. Here’s the timeline:
July 12th: the six Republican primaries.
July 19th: the general recall election for the 30th Senate District (Dave Hanson) and also the two Democratic primaries.
August 9th: the six Republican general recall elections
August 16th: the two remaining Democratic general recall elections (Holperin and Wirch)
What are the chances of a Democratic turnover? Some polling has been done for the Republican recall races, though oddly not the Democratic races. Public Policy Polling released a new poll of likely voters for June 24-26 in three of these races.
Senate district 32, currently held by Republican Dan Kapanke
Jennifer Shilling (D): 56
Dan Kapanke (R): 42
Senate district 18, currently held by Republican Randy Hopper
Jessica King (D): 50
Randy Hopper (R): 47
Senate district 10, currently held by Republican Shelia Harsdorf
Sheila Harsdorf (R): 50
Shelly Moore (D): 45
That would seem to bode well for at least two Democratic seats. It was rumoured that Kapanke had considered resigning so that Republicans could run someone else against the recall Democrat. Older polling shows both Olsen and Cowles as being in a statistical dead heat within the margin of error. So these recalls are by no means in the bag for anyone. There have been campaign ads already but there could also be an 11th hour ad blitz planned that could have some effect. It’s also unclear how voter enthusiasm will be now that time and Scott Walker’s bill have passed, though the fact that there is such a large and concerted recall receiving national attention is rather telling. It would appear, however, that the Democrats have the momentum. We’ll have to wait until July 19th for the political fireworks to begin.
* Such a scenario is not out of the realm of possibility. According to a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee political science professor Mordecai Lee, a former legislator on the Democrat side of the aisle, notes that all six targeted Republicans won in the face of the Obama/Democrat tide of 2008 and that it will likely be a low-turnout election. Additionally, Wisconsin has an open primary where there is no party registration so Republican voters can cross party lines and vote for the fake Democrats.
- Slim margin eliminates one of Wisconsin GOP’s recall efforts (shortformblog.tumblr.com)
- Can ‘Fake’ Democrats Really Pull an Upset? (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
- WI Recall: New Daily Kos polling shows path to victory (dailykos.com)
- Wisconsin Recall Mania Dates (all-but) Set (Hot Air.com)
- Dems Could Win Senate in Wisconsin Recall Elections (Progress Illinois)
- Another Break for Wisconsin Democrats in Recall Fight (Washington Post)
- ‘Fake Democrat’ Enters Wisconsin Recall Race (Wisn.com)