Total Recall: Walker holds on to his seat, Lehman might flip Senate for Democrats
Post by Christie Taylor on 6/6/2012 11:31am
Sixteen months, nearly one million petition signatures, and millions of dollars after the start of Wisconsin’ historic protests and recall effort, Scott Walker is still Wisconsin’s governor, and the first in the nation to survive a recall election. Three Republican senators, including Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, also managed to hold on to their seats by wide margins, but Democrat John Lehman, challenging District 21 Sen. Van Wanggaard, appears to have won his race, and could flip the state Senate to Democratic from its current tie.
News networks began calling the race for Walker early in the evening, some before 9 p.m. and with only about 20 percent of precincts reporting. The numbers held for the rest of the night: with 53.2 percent of the vote to Barrett’s 46.2, he was ahead about just under 200,000 votes. Voters were still casting ballots in Milwaukee at about 9:30, the Government Accountability Board said, and Barrett conceded at about 10:15 p.m.
Walker called his speech a victory for “courage,” a word he’s used since the beginning to describe the union-busting budget repair bill that kicked off mass outrage around the state last February. But he also struck conciliatory notes in his speech: “"It is time to move the state forward. Tomorrow we are no longer opponents. Tomorrow we are one as Wisconsinites."
Barrett, too, urged reconciliation in the “civil war” he promised, while campaigning, that he’d help heal. “The voters have spoken, and I respect the voters of the state of Wisconsin and I honor their decision,” he said.” "It is up to all of us — our side and their side — to listen...to each other. And to try and do what is right for everyone in this state."
WISN reports that, after, a woman slapped him for conceding while she felt there were still votes to be counted.
Meanwhile, Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, the first in history to face recall, defeated challenger Mahlon Mitchell 53 to 47 percent, and three Republican state senators retained their seats.
But though the evening looked bleak for Democrats, with all four senate recalls seeming to favor the Republican incumbents early on, former state Sen. John Lehman declared victory in Racine’s District 21 after midnight Tuesday. With a lead of 779 votes over incumbent Van Wanggaard, he appears to have won by slightly less than 1 percent. As of early Wednesday, though, Wanggaard is still refusing to concede, and has said he’ll hold out for the certified results. With absentee ballots still coming in and counted until Friday, the numbers could change.
In a statement Wednesday morning, Planned Parenthood called the assumed Lehman win a victory for women’s health. “We have regained a pro-women’s health majority with the election of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin endorsed candidate John Lehman,” Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin Executive Director Tanya Atkinson said. The organization focused mailers, phone calls, and door to door canvassing on ousting Wanggaard in light of his votes to defund their cancer screening and contraception access programs, calling it their largest paid media campaign to date.
“The victory in SD 21 proves that Wisconsin women are watching and working to protect and preserve reproductive health and rights.”
Two other Democrats, Donna Seidel in District 29 and Kristin Dexter in District 23, failed in their bids. Seidel was running against Republican Jerry Petrowski, who ran in place of recalled Sen. Pam Galloway who resigned her seat for family health reasons this spring. Dexter ran to recall Sen. Terry Moulton.
And Lori Compas, whose one-woman grassroots campaign to trigger a recall for Fitzgerald barreled forward initially without the help of the Democratic Party, conceded just before 10 p.m. Polling had predicted a Fitzgerald win, but her 18-point margin of defeat was by far the closest race Fitzgerald has run since his election in 1994. In her concession speech, she praised the progressive network that had formed around her candidacy in a district that had previously had few strong Democratic campaigns. “This isn’t the end,” she said. “It’s the beginning.”
The solid Democratic defeat comes despite record turnout of at least 57 percent across the state. The previous record for a gubernatorial contest was 52. Democrats had projected that if turnout topped 2010 numbers, they were likely to benefit most, and with brisk morning turnout, early predictions in the Dane County Clerk’s office estimated that total could approach or exceed 100 percent. (Same-day registration allows this because the percent is calculated based on the number of registered voters prior to the day of the election). But despite Madison hitting huge numbers before noon, it apparently peaked early and the final turnout was a still-high 73 percent. In Milwaukee, wards were running out of ballots and registration forms by early evening.
After the polls closed in Madison, about 500 recall supporters gathered at the Capitol Square waiting for the results. The mood shifted from a cheerful Solidarity Sing-Along to mournful renditions of “Solidarity Forever” when the race was called, and many were unhappy the race had been called with so few precincts reporting. There was a tense moment at approximately 10 p.m. when Walker supporters arrived: the crowd at that point was down to between 100 and 150, and many were engaging the Walker supporters in heated one-on-one confrontations, though dane101 observed no violence, and at least one very civil debate.
Full election results can be found here.
Emily Mills contributed to this report.
Christie Taylor (@ctaylsaurus) covers science, environment, and, depending on the season, state politics for dane101. She verbs a lot of nouns, including rollerskates, radio, and Kurt Vonnegut. A Madison native, she's not sure she'll ever quite manage to leave Wisconsin, and that's just fine by her. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.