State Legislative Tracker: Democrats officially take control of Wisconsin State Senate
The drama of the recall elections in Wisconsin finally came to an end last Tuesday as Democrats officially took control of the state Senate. The 40-minute session was largely ceremonial, with John Lehman (D) taking the oath of office. Democrats elected new leadership, naming Sen. Fred Risser as President of the Senate. Risser, who takes over from Mike Ellis (R), is the longest serving state senator in the country, having been first elected in 1962.
During the session new Majority Leader Mark Miller (D) proposed a special session on job creation, saying the people couldn't wait until next year for the legislature to act. Republicans dismissed the comments as "political theater" and a spokesman for Gov. Scott Walker (R) said there would only be a special session if leaders from both parties in both houses agreed to an agenda, something extremely unlikely.
As Republicans have pointed out, the Democratic victory may be short lived as half of the senate seats will be up for election in November. Of those 16 seats, only 6 are held by Republicans. Additionally, the GOP controlled the redistricting process this year, putting into place Republican friendly maps. The switch in power has not been unusual in recent years - this has been the fourth time since 2004 that the chamber has changed hands. Democrats went into the 2010 elections with an 18-15 majority, but saw Republicans take the Senate 19-14.
Adding to the changes in the Senate, Gov. Walker announced Wednesday he was appointing Sen. Rich Zipperer (R) as his deputy chief of staff. Zipperer, who has served in the Senate since 2011, will resign his seat effective August 5. With his term not up until January 3, 2015, Walker plans to call a special election.
Ceremony aside, gaining power has allowed Democrats a position to request documents related to the redistricting process that have been kept secret by Michael Best & Friedrich, the law firm that was hired by Republicans to draw the new maps. Shrouded in secrecy, the process was done behind closed doors with Republicans signing an oath that they would not discuss the maps in public. The firm was forced to release some of those documents earlier this year per court order, but have continued to keep others under wraps. Miller, who requested the documents, said he would make them public.
This week 2 out of 50 state legislatures - Ohio and Massachusetts - are meeting in regular session. As of May 16, all states had convened their 2012 sessions. No states are projected to adjourn this week.
- See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions
All states have convened their regular 2012 legislative sessions.
The following states have ended their regular session:
- February 16: New Mexico
- March 6: Oregon
- March 8: Utah, Washington
- March 9: Arkansas, Florida, Wyoming
- March 10: Indiana, Virginia, West Virginia
- March 16: Wisconsin
- March 19: South Dakota
- March 29: Georgia, Idaho
- April 9: Maryland
- April 12: Kentucky
- April 16: Alaska
- April 18: Nebraska
- May 1: Tennessee
- May 3: Arizona, Mississippi, Hawaii
- May 5: Vermont
- May 9: Colorado, Iowa, Connecticut
- May 10: Minnesota
- May 16: Alabama
- May 20: Kansas
- May 25: Oklahoma
- May 30: Missouri
- May 31: Maine
- June 4: Louisiana
- June 7: South Carolina
- June 13: Rhode Island
- June 21: New York
- June 27: New Hampshire
- June 30: Delaware
- July 3: North Carolina
- Click here to see a chart of each state's 2012 session information.
| Snapshot of State Legislatures: |
Monday, July 23, 2012
|There are 7,383 Total State Legislators|
|Total Democratic state legislators||3,306 (44.8%)|
|Total Republican state legislators||3,958 (53.6%)|
|There are 99 Total State Legislative Chambers|
|Total Democratic Party-controlled chambers||37|
|Total Republican Party-controlled chambers||58|
|Total tied or nonpartisan chambers||4|
|2012 Session Information|
|Total Special Elections||28|
|Total Special Sessions||15|
In 2011, special sessions were a widespread occurrence in state legislatures. This was largely due to states' having to complete the redistricting process for legislative and congressional districts. Overall in 2011, there were 45 special sessions in 28 states.
Since the beginning of 2012, there have been 15 special sessions in 13 states. There are no special sessions currently ongoing.
Last Tuesday, Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) said he believes a special session on gambling looks promising. Maryland was tentatively scheduled to hold a special session to address the issue on July 9 but an 11-member work group appointed by the governor could not reach consensus on a plan that would expand gambling in the state. After meeting with legislative leaders again, O'Malley said progress was made and that there's a good chance the issue will be dealt with "sooner rather than later." Less optimistic was Speaker of the House Michael Busch (D), who said they "came really to no conclusion...but the breakfast was delicious."
Governor Mark Dayton (D) announced there will be a special session to address flood relief. Tentatively scheduled for late August, a date has not yet been scheduled as state and local officials are waiting to hear how much the federal government will cover.
The special session may also address previous disasters, such as the Verso Paper Mill, which was destroyed by a fire in May, and the 2010 tornado that damaged public facilities in Wadena. Dayton has made it clear from the beginning, however, that he only wants the session to address disaster relief, something the legislature has historically come together on. That hasn't stopped some from trying to interject divisive, partisan issues into the session.
As of today, July 23, 7 state's sessions are currently in recess:
- California - In recess from July 8, 2012 to August 5, 2012.
- Illinois - In recess until January 7, 2013.
- New Jersey - In recess from July 3, 2012 to September 13, 2012.
- New York - In recess from June 22, 2012 to January 7, 2013.
- Michigan - In recess from July 20 to August 14, 2012.
- Pennsylvania - In recess from July 3, 2012 to September 23, 2012.
- Wisconsin - In recess from March 17 to December 31, 2012.
A total of 86 of the 99 chambers will hold state legislative elections on November 6, 2012.
1,301 (65.97%) of the country's 1,972 state senate seats are up for election in November 2012, and 4,714 (87.12%) of the country's 5,411 state house seats are up for election. Altogether, 6,015 (81.47%) of the country's 7,383 state legislative seats will be up for election during the presidential election year.
- 43 of the 50 state senates are holding elections.
- 43 of the 49 state houses are holding elections.
The 6,015 seats up for election is 110 fewer than the 6,125 that were contested in 2010.
As of July 12, all signature filing deadlines have passed:
- Illinois – December 5, 2011
- Ohio - December 7, 2011
- West Virginia - January 28
- Kentucky – January 31
- Indiana – February 10
- Nebraska - February 15 (incumbents), March 1 (non-incumbents)
- Pennsylvania - February 16
- North Carolina - February 29
- Arkansas - March 1
- Oregon - March 6
- California, Idaho, Texas - March 9
- Montana - March 12
- Maine - March 15
- Iowa, Nevada, Utah - March 16
- New Mexico - March 20
- Missouri, South Dakota - March 27
- South Carolina - March 30
- Colorado - April 2
- Tennessee - April 5
- North Dakota, Oklahoma - April 13
- Michigan - May 15
- Washington - May 18
- Georgia - May 25
- Arizona - May 30
- Alaska, Wisconsin, Wyoming - June 1
- Hawaii, Minnesota, Massachusetts - June 5
- Florida - June 8
- Kansas - June 11
- Connecticut - June 12
- Vermont - June 14
- New Hampshire - June 15
- Rhode Island - June 27
- Delaware - July 10
- New York - July 12
- See also: 2012 election dates
There are no state legislative primaries taking place this week.
So far, primaries have taken place in 24 states:
- Ohio - March 6
- Illinois – March 20
- Pennsylvania - April 24
- Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia - May 8
- Idaho, Nebraska, Oregon - May 15
- Arkansas, Kentucky - May 22
- Texas – May 29
- California, Iowa, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota - June 5
- Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina - June 12
- Colorado, Oklahoma, Utah - June 26
A total of 76 state legislative incumbents have been defeated in a primary - 54 Republicans and 22 Democrats.
States with upcoming primaries:
- Currently, 18 states permit the recall of state officials. Between 1913 and 2008, there were just 20 state legislative recall elections in five states. Of the 20 state legislative recall elections, 13 out of 20 resulted in the state legislator being recalled. In 2011, there were 11 state legislative recalls in three states, four of which resulted in the legislator being recalled. In 2012, there have been four state legislative recalls - three have failed while one succeeded.
2011 saw a wave of recall attempts in Michigan. While most of those efforts dried up, at least two campaigns continued on (the recall of Paul Scott was successful on November 8, 2011). Organizers of the campaigns to recall Bruce Caswell (R) and Phil Pavlov (R) set their sights on the August 2012 ballot, but in April organizers of the Pavlov recall announced they did not have enough signatures and were abandoning their efforts. The Caswell campaign remains active.
Following several attempts to get recall language approved against Sen. Randy Richardville, organizers succeeded on June 12, 2012. The approved petition language against Richardville states that one reason for the recall is Richardville's support for a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.
Recalls against four Republican state senators took place on June 5. Going into the recalls the Senate was tied, meaning if the Democrats could win one of the recalls they would take control of the chamber.
Incumbents Scott Fitzgerald (R) and Terry Moulton (R) won easy victories. Republican Jerry Petrowski easily won Pam Galloway's (R) former seat. Unofficial results showed John Lehman (D) defeated Van Wanggaard (R) by 779 votes and he declared victory. With the official canvass showing Lehman winning by 834 votes, Wanggaard called for a recount on June 15.
The recount began on June 20 and concluded July 2. Final tallies released show Lehman won by 819 votes - 36,358 to 35,539. Wanggaard was looking at possible legal challenges but ultimately conceded the race on July 10.
Wanggaard stated, "Despite pleas from around the state to challenge the election, it is not in the best interests of Racine, or Wisconsin, at this time. Now is the time to focus on gaining the state senate back in November, winning Wisconsin's U.S. Senate seat and electing Gov. (Mitt) Romney as president."
So far in 2012 there have been 28 special elections in 12 states.
There is one special election scheduled to take place this week.
Thad Viers (R) resigned on March 21, 2012--a day before being indicted for stalking and harassment in the first degree. A special election to replace him will be held on July 24. A special Republican primary was held on June 5. Given the small gap between the special election and the general election, local leaders called for a law blocking the special election. It was not approved prior to the special election.
- No candidates filed
General election candidates:
Recent election results
On July 20, South Carolina's July 17 special election was decided following a recount:
- South Carolina Senate District 41: After unofficial election results showed Walter Hundley (R) defeating Paul Tinkler (D) by a mere 14 votes, an automatic recount took place on July 20. Hundley survived the recount, winning the seat. However, Hundley will only hold the seat until November as he is not running in the general election.
Upcoming special elections include:
- July 24: South Carolina House District 68
- August 7: Pennsylvania Senate District 40
- November 6: Mississippi State Senate District 19
- November 6: New Jersey Assembly Districts 16, 26, 68
- State legislative elections, 2012
- 2012 state legislative calendar
- Signature requirements and deadlines for 2012 state government elections
- State legislative special elections, 2012
- State legislative recalls
- Twin Cities, "Wisconsin Senate: Dems take power, propose special session," July 17, 2012
- WisPolitics, "Zipperer resigning Senate seat to join Walker's staff," July 18, 2012
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Democrats will get GOP redistricting file," July 19, 2012
- CBS News, "Md. gov: Progress coming toward special session," July 18, 2012
- Duluth News Tribune, "Minnesota officials pledge cooperation to deliver disaster relief," July 12, 2012
- Jamestown Sun, "Minnesota officials eye late-August disaster legislative session," July 11, 2012
- StateScape, Session schedules, accessed July 23, 2012
- American Press, "Leaders call Kleckley recall push a 'grass-roots effort'," June 15, 2012
- The Times Herald, "State Sen. Phil Pavlov recall fails," April 13, 2012
- My FOX Detroit, "Recall language targeting Richardville approved," June 12, 2012
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Recall votes set for May 8 and June 5," March 14, 2012
- Channel 3000, "Wisconsin Democrats counting on recall elections to win state Senate control," May 26, 2012
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wanggaard calls for recount in Senate recall race," June 15, 2012
- The Journal Times, "Wanggaard requests recount, to begin Wednesday," June 15, 2012
- Chicago Tribune, "Recount: Dem wins Wisconsin Senate recall," July 2, 2012
- ABC 7 Chicago, "Wis. GOP lawmaker won't challenge his recall loss," July 10, 2012
- Telegraph Herald, "Wisconsin Democrats to take control of Senate Tuesday," July 16, 2012
- Wisconsin Radio Network, "Senate leadership transferred to Democrats," July 17, 2012
- Myrtle Beach Online, "Myrtle Beach-area Rep. Thad Viers resigns from S.C. House seat," March 22, 2012
- WCSC, "Representative Thad Viers indicted by grand jury," March 21, 2012
- Carolina Live, "Local lawmakers don't want special election for Viers' vacated seat," March 28, 2012
- Examiner, "Special election results still undetermined for SC State Senate race," July 17, 2012
- Post and Courier, "Hundley survives recount, challenged ballots in Senate District 41," July 21, 2012