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State Legislative Tracker: Second round of Wisconsin recalls begins tomorrow

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August 8, 2011

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This week's tracker features an update on last week's Mississippi primary elections, as well as a spotlight on Wisconsin's Republican recall elections that take place tomorrow.


So far this year, 43 out of 50 state legislatures have officially adjourned their regular session. This week, no states are scheduled to adjourn their 2011 regular session.

Current sessions capture for the week of August 8, 2011

Regular sessions

The following 7 states remain in regular legislative sessions:

* California and Wisconsin are both convened in ongoing special sessions, but are still considered to be in regular session. California began its summer recess on July 15 and will adjourn again on August 15, Wisconsin will be in recess until September 13.
** New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania are in recess.
Click here to see a chart of each state's 2011 session information.

Special sessions

Special sessions are expected to be a widespread occurrence in the state legislatures in 2011, in particular due to the necessity of states to conduct the redistricting of state legislative and congressional districts. This week Wisconsin continues an ongoing special session. California's special legislative session is in recess until August 15. No states begin special sessions this week.

Special sessions ending last week:

In recess

Of the 43 states that have adjourned this year, 25 are currently in recess:

  • Alaska - Mid-term recess April 18 through January 16, 2012[1]
  • California - Summer recess July 15 through August 15[2]
  • Delaware - July 1, 2011 through January 10, 2012[1]
  • Georgia - Mid-term recess April 15 through January 8, 2012[1]
  • Hawaii - Mid-term recess May 6 through January 7, 2012[1]
  • Illinois - June 23 through October 24, 2011 (est.)[1]

  • Iowa - Mid-term recess June 30 through January 8, 2012[1]
  • Kansas - Mid-term recess June 1 through January 8, 2012[1]
  • Maine - Mid-term recess June 30 through January 3, 2012 (est.)[1]
  • Minnesota - Mid-term recess May 24 through January 23, 2012[1]
  • Nebraska - Mid-term recess May 27 through January 3, 2012[1]
  • New Hampshire - Summer recess June 30 through September 6, 2011[1]

Sessions spotlight


This week, our spotlight focuses on Wisconsin, where the second set of legislative recalls takes place tomorrow.

Wisconsin: Tomorrow kicks off the second installment in the three-part series of the Wisconsin state senate recall elections.

The first installment featured the recall of Democratic senator Dave Hansen. Hansen defeated Republican challenger David VanderLeest by a margin of 10,998 votes to hold onto his seat.

July 19 Recall[3]
Candidates Votes Percent
Dave Hansen (D) Approveda 22,051 65.93%
David VanderLeest (R) 11,054 33.05%
Scattering 340 1.02%

In round two, the fate of six Republican state senators hangs in the balance. They are:

Campaign spending
Election watchdogs have estimated total third party and candidate spending for the 2011 state senate recall elections at nearly $30 million, with projected amounts to top $40 million.[4] If spending reaches $40 million, that figure would be double the spending on all 116 of last fall's Wisconsin state legislative races combined. Spending for last year's state legislative elections totaled about $19.25 million.[4]

So far, 31 third party special interest groups have registered in this election. Of those groups, spending has reached $13.2 million - more than three times the amount spent by registered groups in last fall's 116 races.[4]

The issues
The event that originally sparked the recall of the nine state senators was the law that stripped public union workers of collective bargaining rights. However, unions and union rights have not been central to campaigns thus far. According to the Appleton Post Crescent, the focus of the recalls has shifted away from the collective bargaining fight, and drifted toward issues like taxes and funding for public schools. Republican state senator Robert Cowles takes the shift as a signal that Wisconsinites agree with what Republicans have accomplished so far this year.[4]

Formal complaints and allegations
The race for the 8th senate district has recently become the most high profile of the Wisconsin recall campaigns. In the past week the fight between incumbent Alberta Darling (R) and first term Assemblywoman Sandy Pasch (D) has seen record amounts of money raised while accusations of collusion and bribery have flown from both sides. All the while the candidates still differ on why the recalls are occurring in the first place.

Darling and Pasch met for their final debate August 3, where the incumbent Republican senator told voters the recall has more to do with DC than Wisconsin. Darling stated, “This is about the Obama election. Obama cannot win unless he wins Wisconsin. That's why you see all this money in here. That's why you see all the arrows and guns pointed at me. Because we had the audacity to take on the special interest groups and say, 'We are Wisconsin.'"[5]

Pasch shot back, citing what she sees as failures by Darling on a number of issues. "They are recalling you because you have cut quality of education, quality of health and quality of life for many, many people,” she said.[5]

Meanwhile, both sides are alleging that their opponent is engaging in election collusion with 501c4 organizations, which if true is illegal. On August 4, the state Democratic Party filed complaints against Darling, accusing her of multiple felonies for collusion and conspiracy. It also names Americans for Prosperity, Wisconsin Family Action, Wisconsin Right to Life and the American Federation for Children. Mike Tate, Democratic state chair, said, "It appears that Alberta Darling is engaged in a coverup to hide election collusion. The last acts of her desperate campaign are not merely pathetic. They are illegal.”[6]

The complaints against Darling come quick on the heels of similar complaints filed against Pasch by the state Republican Party and Media Trackers last week. The claims against Pasch revolve around the group Citizen Action, of which Pasch is a board member. Media Trackers added to their complaint with emails obtained through the Open Records Law which, they say, show collusion between the campaign and the organization.[7][8]

In the midst of it all, investigations are also under way in Milwaukee to determine whether Wisconsin Right to Life and Wisconsin Jobs Now broke state election laws by illegally bribing voters. Wisconsin Right to Life gave out gift and gas cards to volunteers who successfully got voters to complete absentee ballot applications in the 8th District. Susan Armacost, legislative and PAC director for the organization, issued a statement saying, "The activity that the district attorney was subsequently requested to investigate was perfectly legal and in no way a violation of election law, or any other law.”[9]

As was detailed last week, Wisconsin Jobs Now came under fire for hosting several get-out-the-vote “block parties” where they gave out free food and prizes, as well as providing free rides to the polls. Mike Lauer, executive director of Wisconsin Jobs Now, defended the parties, saying, "There was no food for votes, that wasn't the exchange. We are fully confident that we operated in the bounds of the law."[10]

Today, Wisconsin Jobs Now filed a complaint with the GAB against Friends of Alberta Darling and the group We’re Watching, alleging the organizations engaged in illegal activities in an attempt to suppress the vote. The activities cited in the complaint include videotaping voters for extended periods of time, as well as tailing and surveillance of voters.[11]

Speculation is that the 8th will be a close race. A poll conducted by Public Policy Polling showed Darling up by five percent, while one from the Mellman Group showed Pasch up by 1 percent.[12]

August 9, 2011 Recall - District 8 - Daily Kos/PPP Poll
Candidate Party Percent
Alberta Darling Ends.png Republican 52%
Sandy Pasch Electiondot.png Democratic 47%
Undecided 1%

August 9, 2011 Recall - District 8 - Mellman Group Poll
Candidate Party Percent
Alberta Darling Ends.png Republican 46%
Sandy Pasch Electiondot.png Democratic 47%

GAB dismisses complaints
On August 4, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board dismissed complaints filed against three of the senators facing recall. A complaint was filed by One Wisconsin Now against Luther Olsen (R), alleging he co-sponsored a bill that would benefit his wife’s organization financially, the educational agency for east-central Wisconsin. GAB ruled,"An official action that benefits a CESA (or a school district or other local government unit with which an official is associated), even one headed by the official's spouse, does not violate the Ethics Code."[13]

Two complaints were dismissed against Jim Holperin. In the first, Holperin wrote to a judge, asking for consideration of the character of a campaign donor who was being sentenced. GAB said there was no law making the letter illegal. The second accused Holperin of breaking federal copyright law, which GAB said is not an issue for them to decide.

The final complaint came against Robert Cowles, accusing him of sending out a mass mailing after June 3, the cut-off date in an election year. GAB determined the mailing went out in May.[14]


SLP elec2011 badge.jpg

A total of 578 seats will be up for general election in state legislatures in 2011.

Two state legislative primaries remain in Louisiana and Virginia. New Jersey held statewide primaries on June 7, 2011, and Mississippi held statewide primaries on August 2.

Mississippi results

See also: Mississippi House of Representatives elections, 2011, Mississippi State Senate elections, 2011

Mississippi was the second state to hold state legislative primaries in this year, with state legislative primaries occurring on August 2.

In New Jersey’s primaries in June, none of the incumbents were defeated. In Mississippi, 3 senatorial challengers and 2 house challengers defeated an incumbent in the August 2 primary.

Senate incumbents who lost

House incumbents who lost


In an upset, Doug Davis (R), currently representing the 1st senatorial district, lost to Chris Massey, President of the Home Builders Association of Mississippi and avowed proponent of full funding for the district’s public schools.

Ezell Lee, a Republican senator representing the 47th senatorial district, was a member of the Democratic Party until February 2011, when he filed to run for re-election as a Republican.[15] He lost to Republican challenger Tony Smith, owner of Stonewalls BBQ & Catering.

Tommy Moffatt (R) had held his 52nd District seat in the state senate since 1996, and lost to Brice Wiggins by a margin of 12 points. Moffatt acknowledged that Wiggins, an attorney from Pascagoula, “worked extremely hard to win this race,” but admitted he was “disappointed that people didn’t look at [his] record.”[16]

Only 11 incumbent senators faced a primary opponent. The remaining 8 incumbents all advanced to the general election.


District 63’s Rep. Walter Robinson, Jr., a 14-term Democrat who was first elected in 1983, was upset by his primary rival, Deborah Butler Dixon; Robinson was able to claim only 45 percent of the vote to Dixon’s 55 percent. Robinson is chairman of the House Insurance Committee.

Meanwhile, in District 82, Rep. Wilbert Jones fell to Charles Young, Jr. by 8 points in the Democratic primary. Jones has represented the district since he won a special election in June 2009. Young, by contrast, has no political experience but is the son of long-time Rep. Charles Young, Sr., whose 2009 death led to Jones’s election.[17]

Several other representatives are hanging onto their seats by the skin of their teeth. In District 101, Republican Rep. Harvey Fillingane appears to have lost to Hank Lott by seven votes.[18] It is uncertain whether a recanvass of the votes will change the result. Fillingane’s more fortunate colleague, Rep. John Moore of District 60, appears to have fended off a challenge from David Morrow by a little over 100 votes.

Additionally, Republican Rep. Roger Ishee of District 118 will face off with Greg Haney in a August 23 primary runoff, with neither candidate able to claim a majority in yesterday’s contest. Democratic Rep. Mark DuVall and Jamie Franks are also headed for a runoff in District 19.

During the 2010 elections, only 97 incumbents were defeated in the primaries. A total of 4,985 incumbents ran for re-election in 2010. Thus, 98.1 percent of incumbents successfully advanced to the general election. In Mississippi, The 5 incumbents defeated in yesterday’s primaries mean 96.7 percent of incumbents who are running for re-election will advance to the general election ballot.

While the raw percentage of incumbents who lost is low, only 3.3 percent, very few states saw that many incumbents lose during the tumultuous 2010 elections.

Heading into the 2011 election, the partisan breakdown in Mississippi's two chambers is:

Mississippi State Senate
Party As of November 2011 After the 2011 Election
     Democratic Party 24 21
     Republican Party 27 31
     Vacancy 1 0
Total 52 52
2011 state legislative elections analyzed using a Competitiveness Index
Mississippi House of Representatives
Party As of November 2011 After the 2011 Election
     Democratic Party 68 59
     Republican Party 54 63
Total 122 122
See also: Ballotpedia news report on Mississippi primary competitiveness

Upcoming elections

The next state with a signature filing deadline is Louisiana on September 8. Virginia's signature filing deadline was June 15, however a full and comprehensive candidate list has not yet been released. Virginia's primary has been rescheduled to August 23, 2011 instead of its usual date of June 14, 2011[19] after delays and uncertainty in the redistricting process.[20].[21]

Special elections

There are eight special elections taking place this week - one in New Hampshire and seven in Wisconsin.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire State House, Strafford 3

Representative Martin Harty (R) resigned after telling a constituent that the disabled should be shipped to Siberia. The constituent responded that the statement sounded like one Hitler might make. Harty, 91, acknowledged that he agreed with Hitler on the issue. After the ensuing controversy, Harty said he only made the comments in jest.[22] A special election primary has been set for June 7, and a special general election will be held August 9.[23]

Democratic Party Democratic Primary Candidates:
  • Bob Perry
  • Janet Kalar
  • Dennis Malloy
  • Richard Stanley
Republican Party Republican Primary Candidates:
Independent Independent Candidates:


Seal of Wisconsin.svg.png
2011 Wisconsin Senate Recalls

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 BoardRecall timelineElection Results

Assembly District 48

Assemblyman Joseph Parisi (D) resigned after winning election as Dane County executive.[24] A special election is scheduled for August 9. A special election primary was held on July 12.[25] Although no Republicans were nominated, the August 9 special election will proceed. Write-ins are permitted.

Democratic Party Democratic Primary Candidates:
  • Chris Taylor
  • Vicky Selkowe
  • Bethany Ordaz
  • Fred Arnold
  • Andy Heidt
  • Dave DeFelice
Republican Party Republican Primary Candidates:
  • No Republican candidates have filed.

Republican Recall Elections

On August 9, recall elections will held be for six Wisconsin Republicans. A primary election to select Democratic challengers was held on July 12. Recall elections for two Democratic legislators will take place on August 16. For more information and results, see Ballotpedia's Wisconsin recall article.

Senate District 2

August 9 Republican recall election candidates:

Republican Party Robert Cowles Incumbent
Democratic Party Nancy Nusbaum

Senate District 8

August 9 Republican recall election candidates:

Republican Party Alberta Darling Incumbent
Democratic Party Sandy Pasch

Senate District 10

August 9 Republican recall election candidates:

Republican Party Sheila Harsdorf Incumbent
Democratic Party Shelly Moore

Senate District 14

August 9 Republican recall election candidates:

Republican Party Luther Olsen Incumbent
Democratic Party Fred Clark

Senate District 18

August 9 Republican recall election candidates:

Republican Party Randy Hopper Incumbent
Democratic Party Jessica King

Senate District 32

August 9 Republican recall election candidates:

Republican Party Dan Kapanke Incumbent
Democratic Party Jennifer Shilling

Looking ahead

Upcoming special elections include:

External links


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 StateScape, Session schedules, accessed Aug. 8, 2011
  2. California State Assembly, 2011 Tentative Legislative Calendar, accessed Aug. 8, 2011 (dead link)
  3. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "July 12 Primary Election Results District 30," accessed August 11, 2011
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Post Crescent, Wisconsin recall election spending shatters records, August 6, 2011
  5. 5.0 5.1 WISN, “Darling Claims Recall Election Is Really About Re-Electing Obama,” August 3, 2011 (dead link)
  6. Democratic Party of Wisconsin, “Alberta Darling’s Illegal Coverup,” August 4, 2011
  7. Media Trackers, “E-mails Raise Questions about Truthfulness of Pasch Denial,” August 3, 2011
  8. WTMJ, “The Pasch Emails,” August 3, 2011
  9. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Wisconsin Right to Life denies wrongdoing,” August 4, 2011
  10. Reuters, “Prosecutors examine bribery claims in Wisconsin recall race,” August 4, 2011
  11. WisPolitics, “Wisc. Jobs Now: Files GAB complaint against Friends of Alberta Darling, We’re Watching, and other voter suppression agents,” August 5, 2011
  12. Whitefish Bay Patch, ”Swing Communities Could Sway 8th District Recall Election,” August 4, 2011 (dead link)
  13. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “State election officials toss complaints in three recall races,” August 4, 2011
  14. WTAQ, “GAB Tosses complaints against 3 recalled senators,” August 5, 2011
  15. Picayune Item, "Sen. Lee changes party," February 25, 2011
  16., “Mofatt, Lee lose re-election bids, other lawmakers will face runoffs,” August 3, 2011
  17. ‘’The Meridian Star, “Young to continue father’s legacy in House,” August 3, 2011
  18. ‘’Associated Press, “Mississippi Primary Election Results,” accessed July 3, 2011
  19. Ballot Access News, "Virginia House Passes Bill Moving 2011 Primary from June to August," January 20, 2011 (dead link)
  20. Virginia General Assembly, "History of House Bill 1507 (2011)"
  21. Virginia Public Access Project, "Update:Primaries to be held August 23," January 30, 2011
  22. WMUR, "Lawmaker Resigns Over Comment About Shipping Disabled To Siberia," March 14, 2011
  23. Foster's Daily Democrat, "Candidates line up for District 3 seat," May 5, 2011
  24. The Daily Cardinal, "County Exec Parisi Sworn in," April 20, 2011, 2011
  25. Wisconsin GAB, Assembly District 48 Special Election