Two sitting Wisconsin Democratic State Senators faced recall votes today. One of the races has been decided so far.
Wisconsin state Sen. Bob Wirch (D) has defeated corporate attorney Jonathan Steitz (R) in a recall election.
Wirch’s 22nd district seat is Democratic leaning, although Gov. Scott Walker (R) won narrowly there in the 2010 election. In the Republican-leaning 12th district, state Sen. Jim Holperin (D) is fighting tea party activist Kim Simac (R).
Wirch and Holperin were among the Democratic State Senators who fled Wisconsin to stall the vote on Governor Scott Walker’s union busting bill.
Politico is reporting (via breaking news e-mail) that both Wisconsin Democrats have now survived the recall votes.
A third Democrat, Dave Hansen, easily won his recall vote in July.
Please use this as an open thread.
Recall votes on 6 republican state senators are being held today in Wisconsin. All 6 hold seats in traditionally republican areas of rural and suburban Wisconsin. Tons of outside money has poured in for some of the most vituperous ads in political history. It’s been a match of high money rollers on the republican side and on the ground voter turn work by unions on the democratic side. Indications are that turn out is as high as it usually is in a presidential race.
Various clerks in the recall districts reported steady turnout so far with some projecting numbers that will rival a presidential election.
In the 10th SD in western Wisconsin, River Falls City Clerk Lu Ann Hecht said today’s numbers could be as high as the 2008 Presidential election. The city issued 1,003 absentee ballots, twice as many as a regular election.
The municipality is home to both GOP Sen. Sheila Harsdorf and Dem challenger Shelly Moore.
“We expect the turnout to remain steady throughout the day,” Hecht said.
Hudson City Clerk Nancy Korson said voter turnout in Hudson, also part of the 10th, would likely not reach the levels of a presidential election. But they were comparable to the spring Supreme Court election, with over 500 absentee ballots received.
In Baraboo, Deputy Clerk Donna Munz said turnout was much higher than normal. She also said she’d received voter complaints over people at some polling places contacting them as they went into the polling places. At one, about nine people were outside and some voters said they were angry that they felt intimidated.
“We have received angry calls from voters regarding how persistent the people outside the polling places are,” Munz said.
In the 8th SD, one of the top races with GOP Sen. Alberta Darling and Dem Rep. Sandy Pasch, Whitefish Bay officials reported a steady stream during the morning, but said it was too early to say how turnout would end up in Pasch’s hometown.
In River Hills, where Darling lives, Village Clerk Barb Goeckner reported steady turnout through the morning. By 9:45 a.m., about 200 of the municipality’s 1,300 registered voters had cast ballots.
“It’s just been steady,” she said. “It’s not been a mad rush. We don’t have any lines, but it’s definitely been a steady turnout so far.”
In the 2nd SD, DePere officials predicted a turnout of around 45 percent by day’s end. In next door Green Bay, turnout was around 15 percent following the morning checks with polling places. In the April Supreme Court race, turnout was about 11 percent following the morning checks.
Wisconsin Republicans are in real danger of losing control of the state Senate in tonight’s recall elections, as it looks more and more possible that they will lose at least three of the six seats that are on the ballot.
The losses would be cast by Democrats as a severe rebuke of Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) policies. And wins by Republicans would be cast by them as validation for Walker’s tough-love budgeting style.
Beyond Walker’s political capital, though, it’s hard to draw many broad national conclusions about what the recall elections mean. That’s because what’s happening in Wisconsin is occurring very much in a vacuum, for several reasons.
The first is that, as with special elections, these recall elections have have such unusual turnout and have received such inordinate attention from national third-party groups trying to influence the races and send a message. In fact, the recalls have essentially been special elections on steroids, with spending reaching nearly $30 million.
As of a couple weeks ago, about two-thirds of that has gone to benefit Democrats, and Republicans acknowledge that they were essentially caught flat-footed by the whole thing. And because of that, they’ve been fighting from behind in recent weeks.
“This is a referendum on Walker, and the Democrats have everything to lose, and the Republicans did not have a plan for what they started,” said one Republican monitoring the recalls. “And the national folks never saw it for what it was, which is a proxy fight.”
The proxy fight is between organized labor and the new coalitions of GOP governors and state legislative majorities. In the end, Walker’s gambit to cut collective bargaining rights through a legislative maneuver so badly irritated organized labor — and Wisconsin’s laws made it so easy to recall a member of the state legislature — that here we are amidst the biggest mass recall in United States history.
The second reason is that, while some Republican governors have been aggressive in cutting their budgets, the maneuver executed by Walker and the state legislature takes the cake.
The spending has been substantial according to ABC News.
The level of campaign spending has been unprecedented, especially considering it is a recall effort. Spending through Monday was estimated at about $28 million from outside groups on both sides of the aisle and about $5 million spent by the candidates themselves, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
That number was expected to increase by today. Wisconsin Democracy Campaign officials “estimate at this point it’s about even,” research director Mike Buelow said of spending on both sides.
The group will do a full accounting of spending after the election and will have a clearer picture of whether the spending totals are even.
JR Ross, the editor of Wispolitics.com, said turnout will determine which side is victorious by the end of the day.
“I don’t care who you talk to who says they know, they don’t,” Ross said. “It’s all about turnout. We’re in an unprecedented situation. … We don’t have elections in August in Wisconsin in the middle of summer.
“We do know that Democrats and union members are motivated and angry at Republicans and Walker specifically. If Republican voters can match that intensity and turn out in numbers to protect their guys, [then the Republican senators will be safe]. If not, the Democrats win control.”
Polls in Wisconsin close in less than an hour and the returns may be mostly in by 10 pm cst. We’re going to follow those here in a live blog thread.