MILWAUKEE (AP) — A Wisconsin state senator survived a recall election Tuesday that gave voters the most direct opportunity yet to react to a Republican-backed law that stripped most public workers of their collective bargaining rights.

Democratic Sen. Dave Hansen defeated Republican recall organizer David VanderLeest with 69 percent of the vote with 65 percent of precincts reporting, according to unofficial results Tuesday night.

Hansen was the first of nine state senators scheduled for recall elections to face voters amid the fallout from the bitter fight surrounding Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s collective-bargaining plan, which attracted national attention and tens of thousands of protesters to the Wisconsin Capitol earlier this year.

The other two Democrats facing recalls were tracking Republican primaries to find out who they’ll face during elections next month, when six Republicans also will face recall elections.

The stakes of the elections are high: If Democrats pick up a net of three seats, they’ll retake control of the state Senate and gain key momentum in their efforts to recall Walker next year.

The Republicans were targeted for supporting Walker’s collective-bargaining law, which survived a court challenge after eventually passing the GOP-controlled Legislature. The three Democrats are being targeted because they and their Democratic colleagues fled Wisconsin for three weeks to prevent a vote on the measure.

Hansen was the first to face a general election because his challenger had no opposition from his own party, meaning there was no primary.

Gail Rose, a 34-year-old credit-union worker from Suamico, a town north of Green Bay, said she voted for Hansen on Tuesday because his decision to leave the state showed he was willing to stand up to Republican “bullying.”

“He stuck up for us,” she said. “He stood up for the people who voted for him. I like that.”

Hansen entered his race with a major cash advantage, raising $318,000 since April, while VanderLeest raised $2,000. VanderLeest also could be vulnerable because of a criminal record that included convictions in 2006 on two misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct.

Dennis Arcand, a retired postal worker from Green Bay, said VanderLeest’s legal issues didn’t stop him from voting for the Republican challenger.

“I believe he’s on the right side of the issue of getting the budget under control,” said Arcand, 55. “I think Dave Hansen’s a good guy, but on collective bargaining and the budget, that’s why I voted for Mr. VanderLeest.”

VanderLeest has said the race should focus on the issues. Hansen said he wasn’t drawing attention to his opponent’s run-ins with the law because he wanted to keep his campaign positive.

Kris Teske, an election specialist for the city of Green Bay, said local polling sites were seeing a steady stream of voters. State election officials said there were no immediate reports of voting problems or irregularities.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (10)
  1. Common sense says:

    The first comment of this article is a broad and disparaging remark towards liberals. It’s too early for this.

    Please when you comment do enlighten the viewers as to WHAT they might not understand. And please be detailed. WCCO is nice enough to allow for a long comment.

    Thank you,

  2. Jake says:

    The article would be more enlightening if it included Hansen’s previous margin of victory. If he usually wins with 51%, this is a major validation. if he usually wins with 85%, this tells a different story.

    It’s pretty remarkable that the Republicans either couldn’t or wouldn’t raise more for their candidate. Either they knew Hansen was unbeatable, they didn’t think much of their candidate, or weren’t very passionate about the issues involved. The Republican recalls will tell the story, I reckon.

  3. common man says:

    Is it just me or does any one else see this as a bunch of goofy waste of time BS. We vote for someone, they make laws. If you do not like them vote for someone else next time. This is a republic. Not mob rules country.

    1. Brian says:

      Regardless of whether this is a waste of time or not, it is completely legal under Wisconsin statute. If you don’t like the recall process, maybe you should pressure legislators to change it? Although I think that would be a big “lose” for democracy…

  4. Common sense says:

    Agreed, very good Jake!

    The percentages prior may likely paint a better picture. The lack of money support states again that the Republicans are likely to concentrate their efforts elsewhere.

    I think that the Republicans have made a huge mistake in Wisconsin, and that they’ve shorted themselves in the long-term with this stripping of Union collective bargaining rights.

    I completely think the Republicans are only thinking short term fixes in their message to the people, and it will have severe reprocussions shortly down the road. They must really think that the economy will turn around, because if it doesn’t people will continue to flock to the Dem’s that traditionally support Unions, which (correctly or incorrectly) is associated with job protectionism.

  5. Sad says:

    If you want big taxes and you want to work for the state or take money from the state you get a democratic.Can you say hello to the new USSR!

  6. Common sense says:

    Common man,

    You may be right. It may not matter one way or another. People generally think of this political system as a vote for Dem or Rep. and if one doesn’t change their economic situation (usually quickly) then the other has a better chance.

    In reality, I think it’s all perception on both fronts, economic and political. Unfortunetly, I believe, we’ve hit a population, demographic, and money flow shift that has put a hurt on the generations that have been in the work force for 15 years or less.

    I don’t think it will ease up for another 10 years, personally.

    Now the political thing, I think, is simple, you must try and wiggle money out of the richer portion (mainly taxes) of the people, the middle (taxes and fees), or the lower class (through cuts, mostly or fees that impact the greater pop.).

    The tough part is sending the right message for your party to lobby for one that least impacts your pop. group. Or in some cases mismurch the others to make your’s the more appealling to voters.

    1. Common sense says:

      I meant to say besmirch above. Typing too fast.

      Keep in mind that I don’t adovocate for one group or another. I just try to clarify the choices and possible consequences.

      1. Common sense says:

        I don’t pretend to know best for everyone, or want to make other people’s decision. Even the wisest person, can’t see all ends, for everyone.

  7. Jack Noff says:

    Dems hold their seats and cons will all be OUT!! Superdy duperdy cool!!

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