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Dan Kapanke recall, Wisconsin State Senate (2011)

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Dan Kapanke

Senators Facing Recall
Robert CowlesAlberta DarlingSheila HarsdorfDave HansenJim HolperinRandy HopperDan KapankeLuther OlsenRobert Wirch

Other Recall Information
Recalls by YearRecall Law in WisconsinRecall laws in other statesRecalls in Wisconsin2011 Scott Walker Budget Repair BillProtests over Budget Repair BillWisconsin Government Accountability BoardElection Results
A campaign to recall Dan Kapanke, a member of the Republican Party, from his elected position representing District 32 in the Wisconsin State Senate took place in 2011.

The recall effort was a consequence of Kapanke's vote in favor of the Scott Walker Budget Repair Bill. Out of the 9 senators who faced recall, Kapanke was generally rated as most likely to be removed from office.[1]

He lost to Jennifer Shilling in the recall election on August 9, 2011.

Path to the ballot

Needing 15,588 signatures to force a recall, petitioners submitted an estimated 30,000 signatures[2] to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board on April 1, 2011.[3][4] The signatures submitted to recall Kapanke were the first set of signatures submitted in the overall recall battle.[5]

On May 9, the Board validated 21,868 signatures on the petition, a sufficient number for a recall. Kapanke challenged the petition's validity for missing paperwork and over 900 individual signatures. The Board heard arguments on May 23, and,[6] following GAB staff recommendations that the recall be approved,[7] rejected most of the challenges, verifying 21,776 signatures.[8]. This cleared the way for a recall election to be held July 12.[9] The Board officially certified the recall against all six Republican on June 3, effectively setting the election July 12. Since there was more than one opposing candidate, however, a primary took place on July 12, with the recall on August 9.


In April, Democratic state Rep. Jennifer Shilling announced she would run against Kapanke in a recall.[10]

Location of District 32 in Wisconsin
Map of Wisconsin State Senate District 32

Spoiler candidate

At a meeting on May 25, La Crosse County Republicans considered running a spoiler candidate against Shilling in order to necessitate a primary and push back the recall election. The La Crosse Tribune, who obtained a secret recording of the meeting, broke the story. The discussion occurred before Kapanke arrived at the meeting and his campaign said they were not involved in discussions of running a Democratic candidate.[11]

In another secret recording obtained by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Kapanke told the audience he had to overcome the amount of public employees in his district, stating, "We’ve got tons of government workers in my district - tons. From La Crosse to Prairie du Chien and to Viroqua and to Ontario and to Hillsboro, you can go on and on and on. We have to overcome that. We gotta hope that they, kind of, are sleeping on July 12th - or whenever the (election) date is."[12]

La Crosse County Republican Party Chair Bill Feehan said he met with an attorney and was going to file suit against the person who made the recording. Under Wisconsin law it is legal to record a conversation if one party gives consent. Feehan says that early on during the meeting party vice chairman Julian Bradley said the meeting should not be recorded and, therefore, the person who did so broke the law.[13]

On June 7, James Smith, a recent member of the La Crosse County Republican executive committee, announced he was running as a protest candidate in the 32nd District. He explained his candidacy - “I want to bring light on the issue that 22,000 signatures can pretty much overturn an election where even the loser got 40,000 votes.” Shilling’s campaign declined to comment on his candidacy.[14]

July 12 Democratic Primary

Shilling easily defeated Smith in the primary.

July 12 Democratic primary[15]
Candidates Votes Percent
Jennifer Shilling Approveda 25,340 70.19%
James Smith 10,664 29.54%
Scattering 98 0.27%

August 9 recall

Shilling defeated Kapanke in the recall.

August 9 Recall - District 32[16]
Candidates Votes Percent
Jennifer Shilling (D) Green check mark transparent.png 33,193 55.38%
Dan Kapanke (R) 26,724 44.58%
Scattering 25 .04%

Ads relating to the campaign

Petition challenged

Kapanke challenged all of the signatures on the recall petition on April 15, saying organizers failed to follow proper procedures. He said that the same person or entity had to register with the state as well as file a statement of intent to circulate the petitions. Patrick Scheller, organizer of the recall campaign, filed a statement, but did not file with the state. The Committee to Recall Kapanke registered with the state, but didn't file the petition circulation statement.[17][18]

At a meeting of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board on May 23, the Board rejected the challenge, citing a staff memo which states that the two documents must be attached when filed.[19]

Legal challenges

Attorneys for Kapanke, Luther Olsen, and Randy Hopper filed petitions in Dane County Court on May 31 seeking to stop the recall elections against them. Their argument was based on improperly filed paperwork, similar to the argument they previously used before the GAB and saw rejected. The court petitions alleged that recall petitioners did not correctly register with the GAB and thus the 60-day period to collect signatures did not start, meaning every signature collected was "dated outside the circulation period" and therefore invalid.[20]

On June 7, Alberta Darling, Sheila Harsdorf, and Robert Cowles joined their fellow Republicans in filing suit against the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board in Dane County Circuit Court. Their lawsuits alleged that signatures on the recall petitions were invalid because of improperly filed paperwork.[21][22] Jeremy Levinson, attorney for the Democrats, filed motions with the court on June 14, asking them to throw out the Republican's "meritless" challenges.[23]

After hearing arguments on July 8, Judge Richard Niess ruled that all of the nine recalls should proceed, saying that election officials had already thoroughly and correctly addressed the complaints.[24]


Conducted June 23-26

August 9, 2011 Recall - District 32 - Daily Kos/PPP Poll[25]
Candidate Party Percent
Jennifer Shilling Electiondot.png Democratic 56%
Dan Kapanke Ends.png Republican 42%
Undecided 3%

Conducted August 5-7

August 9, 2011 Recall - District 32 - Daily Kos/PPP Poll[26]
Candidate Party Percent
Jennifer Shilling Electiondot.png Democratic 54%
Dan Kapanke Ends.png Republican 43%
Undecided 3%

Campaign contributions

Candidate fundraising

On June 7, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign filed campaign finance charges against Kapanke for failing to disclose occupation and employer information about campaign contributions. Kapanke’s campaign report covering January 1 to April 18 was found to be missing employer information on 12 contributions totaling $6,150.[27]

Dan Kapanke Campaign Finance Reports (GAB ID No. 103851)
Report Date Filed Beginning Balance Total Contributions (Expenditures) Cash on Hand
Special Pre-Election[28] August 1, 2011 $123,824.36 $156,467.53 $(231,912.03) $48,379.86
July Continuing[29] July 5, 2011 $108,502.09 $63,386.00 $(48,063.73) $123,824.36
Special Pre-Primary[30] July 5, 2011 $99,061.24 $482,217.64 $(472,776.79) $108,502.09
Special Pre-Election[31] April 25, 2011 $46,204.50 $141,145.85 $(88,289.11) $99,061.24
Spring Pre-Election[32] April 15, 2011 $9,143.53 $39,163.99 $(2,103.02) $46,204.50

The following political action committees made donations to Dan Kapanke:

  • IFAPAC Wisconsin
  • Operating Engineers 139 PAC
  • Wisconsin Insurance Alliance PAC

Official reports

Recall committees

As of the April 25, 2011 filing, the Committee to Recall Kapanke has spent and raised $17,987.42.

Committee to Recall Kapanke Campaign Finance Reports (GAB ID No. 600016)
Report Date Filed Beginning Balance Total Contributions (Expenditures) Cash on Hand
Special Pre-Election[33] April 6, 2011 $0.00 $2,812.29 $(2,812.29) $0.00
Spring Pre-Election[34] March 28, 2011 $0.00 $15,175.13 $(15,175.13) $0.00

Additional reading

Official documents

The following documents are attributed to the Kapanke recall and have been publicized by the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.


See also

External links


  1. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Kapanke given toughest odds in recall election," March 19, 2011
  2. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Committee to Recall Kapanke," accessed on June 9, 2011
  3. Washington Post, "Wisconsin recall drive already making history," April 4, 2011
  4. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "Kapanke recall campaign to deliver signatures Friday," April 1, 2011
  5. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "First recall campaign MAY have enough signatures," March 29, 2011
  6. LaCross Tribune, "GAB staff: Enough signatures Kapanke for recall," May 10, 2011
  7. Talking Points Memo, "Wis. Elections Staff Recommend Recalls Against Three GOPers," May 20, 2011
  8. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Recall Election Information," accessed May 23, 2011
  9. FOX 11, "GAB clears way for 3 GOP recall elections," May 23, 2011
  10. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin Senate recall races tempt Assembly members," April 30, 2011
  11. La Crosse Tribune, "Secret tape: GOP considered spoiler candidate to challenge Shilling," June 1, 2011
  12. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "Kapanke hopes public employees "are sleeping" during recall vote," June 1, 2011
  13. La Crosse Tribune, "County GOP to sue over secret tape," June 4, 2011
  14. ‘’La Crosse Tribune, “Former GOP officer to challenge Shilling as Democrat,” June 7, 2011
  15. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "July 12 Primary Results District 32," accessed August 11, 2011
  16. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "District 32 Recall Election Results," accessed August 19, 2011
  17. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Regional News Briefs," April 16, 2011
  18. Kapanke challenge to recall petition, April 15, 2011
  19. ‘’Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, “Board sets three more recall elections for July 12,” May 23, 2011
  20. Wisconsin State Journal, "Recall-targeted GOP senators challenge validity of petitions," June 1, 2011
  21. Superior Telegram, "GOP planning lawsuit over Republican senator recalls," June 8, 2011
  22. Leader-Telegram, "Harsdorf, other GOP senators sue to stop recalls," June 9, 2011
  23., "Recall campaigns ask court to throw out 'meritless' challenges," June 14. 2011
  24. WUWM, "Judges Rules Senate Recalls Can Proceed," July 8, 2011
  25. Daily Kos, "WI Recall: New Daily Kos polling shows path to victory," June 28, 2011
  26. Daily Kos, "Wisconsin recall elections: Too close to call," August 8, 2011
  27. FDL Reporter, 'State group files campaign finance complaints against 3 recall targets,” June 7, 2011
  28. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN: GAB-2: Kapanke for State Senate," August 1, 2011
  29. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN: GAB-2: Kapanke for State Senate," July 5, 2011
  30. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN: GAB-2: Kapanke for State Senate," July 5, 2011
  31. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN GAB-2: Kapanke for State Senate," April 25, 2011
  32. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN GAB-2: Kapanke for State Senate," April 15, 2011
  33. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN GAB-2: Committee to Recall Kapanke," April 6, 2011
  34. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN GAB-2: Committee to Recall Kapanke," March 28, 2011