MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A stand by Wisconsin Republicans against a massive effort to oust them from power could reverberate across the country as the battle over union rights and the conservative revolution heads toward the 2012 presidential race.

Democrats succeeded in taking two Wisconsin state Senate seats away from Republican incumbents on Tuesday but fell one short of what they needed to seize majority control of the chamber.

Republicans saw it as a big win for Gov. Scott Walker and a confirmation of his conservative agenda, the hallmark of which was a polarizing proposal taking away most collective bargaining rights from public workers.

“Republicans are going to continue doing what we promised the people of Wisconsin — improve the economy and get Wisconsin moving back in the right direction,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said in a prepared statement after the victory.

Walker attempted to strike a bipartisan tone in victory, saying that he reached out to leaders in both parties.

“In the days ahead I look forward to working with legislators of all parties to grow jobs for Wisconsin and move our state forward,” Walker said in a prepared statement.

Democrats and union leaders tried to make the best of the historic GOP wins. There had been only 13 other successful recalls of state-level office holders nationwide since 1913.

“The fact of the matter remains that, fighting on Republican turf, we have begun the work of stopping the Scott Walker agenda,” said Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate.

Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, said voters sent a message that there is a growing movement to reclaim the middle class.

“Let’s be clear, anyway you slice it, this is an unprecedented victory,” he said.

Still, it was far less than what Democrats set out to achieve. And while they still plan to move ahead with recalling Walker, maintaining momentum for that effort, which can’t start until November, will be difficult.

Sen. Luther Olsen, one of the four Republicans who won, said he hoped the victories would “take the wind out of the recall for Walker, but I’m not sure.”

Tate, the Democratic Party chairman, said Wednesday that Democratic gains showed how vulnerable Walker is and that the recall effort would continue with the election taking place in November, timed to coincide with expected high Democratic turnout in the presidential race.

Two Democratic senators face recall elections next week, but even if they prevail, Republicans would still hold a narrow 17-16 majority.

Four Republican senators held on to their seats Tuesday. They were Olsen and Sens. Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls, Rob Cowles of Allouez, and Alberta Darling of River Hills. Two Republicans — Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac and Dan Kapanke of La Crosse — were defeated. Former deputy mayor of Oshkosh Jessica King beat Hopper and Democratic state Rep. Jennifer Shilling beat Kapanke.

A ninth senator, Democrat Dave Hansen of Green Bay, won his recall election last month.

Collectively, more than $31 million has been spent on the recalls, largely from outside conservative groups, unions and others.

Republican and Democratic strategists were leery of reading too much into the results heading into next year’s campaign in which Wisconsin is expected to be a key swing state.

Democratic strategist Chris Lehane said the results could provide “some early radar warnings” about the 2012 races, and that he expects the conservatives “to fight back like an angry badger.”

Lehane said Wisconsin’s tumultuous year since November’s elections has been a microcosm of the current “rollercoaster” era of U.S. politics.

Wisconsin voters had mixed emotions about the necessity of the recalls.

Wayne Boland, 41, a Whitefish Bay man who works in marketing for a medical equipment maker, said he voted for the Republican Darling “not because I entirely agree with everything the Republican Party has done or the governor” but because they’re working toward addressing the state’s problems.

Republicans won control of both houses of the Legislature and the governor’s office in the 2010 election just nine months ago.

Democrats had hoped enough wins in the recalls would have allowed them to block the Republican agenda, but the GOP will hold on to their majorities that have allowed them to rapidly pass bills through the Legislature.

The elections were also closely watched in other states undergoing similar partisan battles.

A coalition of unions and labor-friendly groups fighting a Wisconsin-style collective bargaining overhaul in Ohio said the outcome of the recall elections will have little bearing on whether Ohio’s law is repealed this fall.

The effort in Wisconsin was about recalling specific Republicans who voted for the anti-union bill while the push in Ohio is about repealing the law itself. That makes it difficult to compare the two states, said We Are Ohio spokeswoman Melissa Fazekas.

Supporters of the Ohio law also are distancing their state from the fight in Wisconsin.

“We’re not focused on Wisconsin, and Ohioans aren’t looking to another state to tell them where they should stand,” said Jason Mauk, spokesman for Building a Better Ohio, a group defending the collective bargaining law.

Ohioans will vote Nov. 8 on whether to accept or reject the union-limiting law signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich in March that limits bargaining rights for more than 350,000 police, firefighters, teachers and other government employees.

Unlike Wisconsin, Ohio’s Constitution makes no provision for recalling elected officials.

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

Comments (32)
  1. Mark from Minnesota Tax Waste says:

    Looks like the days of the State Unions are gone, now lets hire the people who want to work and not milk the clock!! and the Tax payers!! The people have spoken, but I am sure the State Unions will come up with some excuse to call this election unfair.

    1. Mark from Minnesota Tax Waste says:

      I’m sorry I should have said something nice about the Unions in all fairness. They now can put all their time into helping illegal workers form Unions like they did in St Paul. They have sold out the American workers for to long!

      1. jimmy says:

        Republicans lost 1/3 of their seats that were up for election. In Jan. all the Tea Baggers will be up for recall including the Head bagger himself Walker. Makes you wonder how losing 1/3 of the seats will translate into that mass recall.

        Bye bye Baggers

        1. @Jimmy? says:

          Did you not see the out come of Tuesdays election?

          1. frozenrunner says:

            There was no analysis of if these districts were swing districts, or long time Republican districts. Outcomes as a barometer of public sentiment are pointless without knowing the demographics of who were voting.

    2. th says:

      If it weren’t for unions you wouldn’t be making what you are today. Open your eyes people.

      1. My Opinion says:

        ….and prices would not be what they are today. Prices rise as a result of many factors, but part of that is due to unions pushing for higher wages and companies need to pass those higher costs onto the consumers…you and I.

      2. Phid says:

        Can’t we also say: if it weren’t for unions, we would be paying less for our American cars than we are today?

  2. foge1 says:

    Just goes to show. Even with all the union money in the world, the people are fed up with waste. Stop spending.

  3. Dan J says:

    The voices of Wisconsin voters was heard, again…

  4. Bill Clinton says:

    Union = Mediocrity

  5. My Opinion says:

    I am all for the Governor taking a stand against the unions. While they had a time and a place, that time and place has gone to the wayside. I believe that part of the reason that we are in our financial mess is due to unions. Unions bargain for higher wages and higher benefits…as a result in order for the states to pay that requires an increase in taxes / revenues. This goes on year-over-year, until we get to the point of states that are broke.

    Here is my thought – do what Northwest Airlines did a few years ago: allow the workers to strike and then bring in non-union workers who want / need a job. After awhile, the unions workers will simply give up and realize it is a lost cause.

    Or do what Wal-Mart did elsewhere – employees in the meat department voted to join a union…WalMart got around that by decided to sell pre-packaged meats rather than having employees cutting / packaging meat.

    Personally….I would rather not have a job than work for a place that is part of the union.

    1. th says:

      And you will keep getting farther and farther in the hole as the corporate greed management keep getting richer and richer

      1. My Opinion says:

        I do not believe that a union keeps corporate greed in check, as some people believe….corporate greed will be there regardless if there is a union or not….

    2. Sean says:

      So you would rather suck off others than work for a union? Unions are only as good as the membership’s involvement on a local level. As a free will state when your employer decides that they just don’t like you and fire you then you might say should have had a union. Why would they want to fire an older worker making good money or someone who might someday have health issues and cost them money?

  6. Norge says:


    1. Tom says:

      @ Norge

      Unions didn’t lose really as they are not the ones who are choosing to grab their ankles like some people in Wisc are choosing to do and apparently loving it after last night! They decided Middle class welfare bad, corporate welfare good!

  7. snowman says:

    This is great for big business. CEOs are licking their chops

    1. Tom says:

      @ Snowman

      CEO’s aren’t licking their chops not when they have lower /middle class conservatives / Tea Party people who are willing to do it for them!

  8. Jerome says:

    This is not about big business, CEOs, or the rich. Its about ‘We the People’ having control of our government. Its about taking away our freedom through taxation. Its about control the size and cost of government. We the people will choose who we hire to teach our children, we the people will decide how much we pay them, we the people will decide what programs we will fund and what we will teach our children. We will elect people that represent our values.

    1. snowman says:

      You the people are a bunch of rubes! No taxes means no government services, no road maintenance, no public transportation!

      1. Tom says:

        @ Snowman

        And apparently they don’t use buses, roads, or any gov’t services! They use their horse and buggy and the country to get around!

  9. Jack says:

    Thank You Wisconsin voters for keeping the American dream alive. We control spending at home, and the state has to do the same. Our nation is in one heck of a financial crisis, but the Democratic morons and the people that support them just think we can spend our way out of this. It was reported that Moore in Wisconsin favored giving benefits to the illegals. If that is true, heaven help us in this mess as we try to get a handle on spending, and you have a lunatic like that trying to bankrupt us in the name of Democratic liberal thinking. If that is true, how can any of you support that kind of thinking???? The comments I heard Moore saying was “We live and breath Union”…….Unbelievable, yet she continued to say she represents all of Wisconsin. I am not a union member, and she fortunately will not represent me.

    1. snowman says:

      Thats it tighten your belts, why dont the legislators cut their salaries and benefits?

    2. frozenrunner says:

      That was Rep Gwen Moore of Milwaukee. Your post provides an example of just how little fact checking goes on before someone else spews out misinformation

    3. evaichkhanian says:

      Scott Walker… are next. 6 republicans were recalled in republican districts. 2 out of 6 lost….and Alberta Darling, well what can we say about Wakesha county. it is a sign of change coming. We set out to win 2 and we did.
      Alberta Darling was close, and would have been sweet, but the republicans spent 8 million dollars (the most ever spent on a legilative seat) to keep her from loosing…what does that tell you

    4. evaichkhanian says:

      That was not Shelly Moore talking – that was the republian propaganda machine called “Americans for Prosperity” putting words in her mouth, that were never once spoken by her. And Jack if you were in Wisconisn and actually knew her, you would not be writing this.

    5. Tom says:

      @ Jack

      We control our spending at home? That would explain all the foreclosures, people using their homes like ATMS, And putting everything on the card? Yep that this personal responsibilty!

      And by the way which party went on a spending spree from 2000 -2006? I believe it was the Bush and the GOP!

  10. Mel says:

    “It’s the economy, stupid.”

  11. Murph says:

    Look at the bright side two enemies of the ordinary ,non rich,citenry were eliminated! This was no BIG WIN for the GOP,they LOST! I see it as 2 down and a lot more ready to fall.You tie it with colorful ribbons and bows and add some helium balloons with big pink elephants on them if it makes you fascists feel better……. But…THE TRUTH IS,the GOP lost! Gov.Walker will probably lose as well! He is the main culprit,the evil one who must be stopped! Plus he’s a dork!

  12. Citizen says:

    I ask all posters on this page to take a look at the strongest economies in the world that are thriving after having been poor and marginalized in the early 1900s. Scandinavia now enjoys the highest standard of living in the world, the most educated workforce, and some of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe. A quick quiz for all you conservatives. Why is that happening? Because the Scandinavian countries enjoy the most egalitarian capitalist economies on earth. They have nearly UNIVERSAL UNIONS, high minimum wages, and a strong welfare state. They are also open trade economies. Business there is free to hire, fire, change lines of business, and otherwise conduct itself as it wishes, but the businesses ARE NOT FREE TO CUT WAGES. If, as a business you cannot compete under these rules, and earn a profit, that’s too bad for the business. This effectively disciplines business to keep productivity high and technologically advanced and drives out the marginal businesses who would exploit workers. And now the Scandinavian countries enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world and provide the population with enough resources to live on.

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