Collective bargaining fails to be a major issue in Wisconsin recall campaigns
By Greg Janetka
MADISON, Wisconsin: Some five months ago Republican legislators introduced a bill aimed at easing the state’s $3.6 billion deficit at the request of Governor Scott Walker. Provisions in the bill that restricted collective bargaining rights by public employees set off a firestorm of controversy, leading to massive protests in and outside of the state capitol. Democrats went to Illinois to avoid a vote on the bill, while Republicans eventually figured out a way to pass it in their absence. For their actions in the fight, senators on both sides were targeted by recall campaigns.
And yet, while it served as the catalyst for all of the nine recalls, collective bargaining has taken on a minor role, overshadowed by discussions on government spending and taxes, as well as personal attacks. Lawrence University political science professor Arnold Shober said both parties would rather deal in these easier, predictable issues, explaining:
"For the Republicans, they do not want to remind people that public school teachers are unhappy, because most people have (a) good feeling about teachers. For the Democrats, they don't want people to be reminded that public employees can retire in their 50s and enjoy a second lifetime supported in part by taxes. Thus, collective bargaining is not really a winning issue for either party."
Mike Tate, Chairman of the state Democratic Party, stated last week, “organized labor is very energized and engaged in this race, but this is not about collective bargaining. This is about the type of state that Wisconsin is, where our leaders are taking us, and if these values that are being promoted in Madison right now are the values of Wisconsin."
Spokeswoman for the state Republican Party, Katie McCallum, implied that, with the successful passage and implementation of the bill, collective barganing has become a non-issue, saying, "Instead of the sky falling like (Democrats) claimed back in the spring, voters are seeing the positive effects of collective bargaining reform, including school districts around the state that are saving millions of dollars."
The shift in issues has been evident in the TV ads run by both candidates and third party organizations. We Are Wisconsin has come to be one of the largest players in the recalls, raising well over $4 million. The left-leaning organization, composed of union and labor groups, was born directly out of the budget bill protests. They have produced TV ads for a majority of the districts, but have not made collective bargaining the main focus of any of them.
WisPolitics recently did an analysis of each of the recalls, including handicapping ratings. They included this explanatory note with the ratings: “Candidates identified as having an edge are generally considered likely to be almost safe bets to win this summer. Districts with a lean could go either way, though one candidate appears to have an advantage. Toss-up means too close to call.” The ratings are as follows:
- WP rating - Edge to Cowles
- WP rating - Leaning to Darling
- WP rating - Leaning to Harsdorf
- WP rating - Leaning to Olsen
- WP rating - Leaning to King
- WP rating - Edge to Shilling
- WP rating - Toss-Up
- WP rating - Edge to Wirch
Holperin vs. Simac
Ad wars are under way in the 12th District race. We Are Wisconsin announced the release of a TV ad yesterday called “Kim Simac on Taxes: Pay Your Own.” The 30-second spot says Simac “failed to pay her property taxes until she decided to run for office. There was a tax warrant filed against her for failing to pay her state taxes. And Simac paid no state income taxes in 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008.”
Today Simac responded with a commercial of her own called “Taxes Paid,” in which she says she paid her taxes and has the receipts to prove the claims are false. In a press release Simac stated, “There are many small business owners and individuals in similar situations like me. This attack is not only against me, but all of us. What Jim Holperin is really saying in his ads are that I and many other small business owners and individuals are too poor to run for public office.”
Whether or not candidates have paid their taxes has been an issue in a number of the campaigns, most recently in an ad targeting Randy Hopper. The claims made against him were shown to be “Barely True” by PolitiFact.
- Recall of Wisconsin State Senators (2011)
- Wisconsin State Senate
- Laws governing recall in Wisconsin
- Redistricting in Wisconsin
- Appleton Post Crescent, “Wisconsin recall debate shifts from unions to budget cuts,” July 28, 2011
- Huffington Post,“Wisconsin Recalls 2011: Democrats Say Elections Are Not Just About Collective Bargaining,” July 20, 2011
- "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Committee supporting Democrats in recalls raises $4 million in 6 weeks," July 2, 2011
- WisPolitics,“2011 Wisconsin Senate Recalls,” July 22, 2011
- WisPolitics,“We Are Wisconsin: New ad, “Kim Simac on Taxes: Pay Your Own,” July 27, 2011
- WisPolitics,“Simac Campaign: Simac addresses misleading attacks about her taxes,” July 28, 2011
- PolitiFact, “In Wisconsin Senate recall race, Democratic Jessica King says GOP Sen. Randy Hopper ‘didn’t pay taxes,’” July 26, 2011