Alberta Darling recall, Wisconsin State Senate (2011)

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Alberta Darling

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 Alberta Darling, a member of the Republican Party, from her elected position representing District 8 in the Wisconsin State Senate took place in 2011. Darling was targeted because of her support for Gov. Scott Walker's Budget Repair Bill.[1]

Darling defeated Sandy Pasch in the recall election on August 9, 2011.

Path to the ballot

About 30,000 signatures to recall Darling were filed on April 21, 2011. Signatures were filed against nine different state senators in Wisconsin, while a total of sixteen were originally targeted for recall.[2] Challenges to the petition were reviewed by the board on May 31.[3] While it did uphold some of the challenges, the Board ultimately gave the go ahead for a recall election.[4] The Board officially certified the recall against Darling on June 3, effectively setting the election for July 12. Since more than one opposing candidate filed, however, a primary took place on July 12, with the recall on August 9.


Democratic state Rep. Sandy Pasch filed papers with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board on May 5 to run against Darling if a recall election took place.[5]

In response to Pasch's candidacy, Darling said, "People are going to have a very clear choice. Do they want a fiscally responsible leader who will work for taxpayers or do they want a candidate whose record shows an addiction to the tax-and-spend habits that got us into this fiscal mess we are currently in?"[6]

Pasch said that a key to her victory would be getting her message out. She stated, "Senator Darling has put politics before people. Her votes have hurt education and the delivery of services in her district. People would like the political leaders in our state to work together and they are not."[7]

Many experts believed that turnout would be key, and that which side could better motivate its base could determine the election.

Location of Wisconsin State Senate District 8
Map of Wisconsin Senate District 8

Protest candidate

Gladys Huber, a longtime Republican supporter, ran as a Democrat in the race, leading to a primary against Pasch. Pasch said, "It's a little appalling to me that they are running a fake Democrat."[8]

July 12 Democratic Primary

Pasch easily defeated Huber in the primary.

July 12 Democratic primary[9]
Candidates Votes Percent
Sandy Pasch Approveda 21,657 64.13%
Gladys Huber 11,865 35.14%
Scattering 246 0.73%
  • Nicholas Brehm Note: Brehm filed nomination papers with sufficient signatures but did not file final papers to be on the ballot.

August 9 recall

Darling narrowly defeated Pasch on August 9.

August 9 Recall - District 8[10]
Candidates Votes Percent
Green check mark transparent.png Alberta Darling (R) 39,449 53.62%
Sandy Pasch (D) 34,071 46.31%
Scattering 56 .08%


Former Democratic Rep. Sheldon Wasserman said he wanted to run but was told that redistricting would make him ineligible. Calling it "dirty politics," Wasserman said, “I was told point blank 'you're not going to be in the new senate district, we're going to gerrymander you out. You can go ahead and run, but you are not going to have a district to run from.'”[11]


Following the passage of the new state budget, Darling spent June 18 talking to constituents, while challenger Pasch was going door-to-door asking for support and reminding voters that there would be two elections.[12] Gladys Huber, the “protest candidate,” had a Darling sign in her front yard and was not out campaigning.[13]

The campaign between Darling and Pasch heated up in mid-June when Pasch issued a press release stating that Darling voted to increase spending by over $1 billion in the new state budget. Pasch stated, "This budget makes a mockery of Senator Darling's claims of fiscal responsibility. Voters in our district would be stunned to learn that all the while Senator Darling is talking about getting the budget under control, she actually voted to add more than $1 billion in additional spending.”[14]

PolitiFact gave Pasch’s claim a “Mostly True” rating, noting that the figure was accurate, but that there were other ways to look at the numbers.[15]


Following her victory in the July 12 Democratic primary, Pasch issued a press release saying "the Darling campaign has finally admitted to avoiding debates" with her after Darling turned down requests from Disability Rights Wisconsin and Advocates for Education.

Pasch stated, "We are still waiting on Darling to confirm a date for additional reputable hosts, but have been given no sign of good intent. It is time for my opponent to emerge from the shadows and join me in a debate on the issues.[16]

Pasch announced on July 20 that she accepted debate invitations from six organization, but Darling had only accepted one, which was not a true debate. Calling out her opponent, Pasch said, "it appears Senator Darling is doing everything she can to avoid talking about her support for historic cuts to education and women's healthcare to pay for tax breaks for big corporations and special interests.”[17]

The “debate” agreed to by Darling was put on by the Milwaukee Press Club and took place on two separate days, with Pasch answering questions from journalists and the audience on August 1, and Darling facing the same panel August 2. A statement from the Press Club explained the format, saying they “attempted to present a debate between the two candidates at one setting. Pasch accepted the debate proposal. Darling declined. Thus, the candidates will be presented as Newsmakers on consecutive days.”[18]

On July 24, Darling and Pasch met face-to-face on the TV show “UpFront with Mike Gousha.”[19] By all accounts the debate was a contentious one, with Darling refusing to acknowledge Pasch and both candidates continually interrupting one another.[20]

The debate touched on collective bargaining, jobs, education, redistricting, and bipartisanship. Darling defended her record and Gov. Scott Walker’s budget plan, saying Republicans followed the will of the voters and simply did what they said they would do - “We didn’t raise taxes. We did the hard job, we made cuts. It was difficult but we held up our part." Pasch responded that Republicans “have stopped listening to half of the people in the state of Wisconsin.”[20] One issue they did agree on was the need for bipartisanship, but neither offered concrete ideas for achieving it.[21]

While neither candidate readily claimed victory in the debate, the state Democratic Party issued a press release attacking Darling for calling herself “pro-education” during the show. Party Chairman Mike Tate stated, "In Sen. Darling's world, up is down, left is right, black is white, and slashing education to the bone makes you a pro-education candidate."[22]

Verified complaint against Pasch

The state Republican Party filed a verified complaint (dead link) with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board on August 1 against Pasch, asking for an investigation into possible illegal collusion between Pasch’s campaign and Citizen Action of Wisconsin, a left-leaning organization "committed to achieving social, economic, and environmental justice."[23]

Pasch is a member of the board of directors of Citizen Action, while her campaign treasurer Jackie Boynton also serves as treasurer for the organization.[24]

In a press release, Stephan Thompson, Executive Director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, said, "In recent weeks, Citizen Action has taken an unusual interest in attacking Alberta Darling, with nearly identical messaging as the Pasch campaign. We feel that it is only prudent to ensure that these circumstances are uncanny coincidences, not the result of illegal activity on the part of the Pasch campaign."[25]

Andrew Davis, campaign manager for Alberta Darling stated, "As we have seen throughout the campaign from Sandy Pasch, she has little regard for right and wrong. Coordinating with third party groups is a very serious matter and the Darling campaign hopes that the Government Accountability Board looks into this immediately."[26]

Pasch campaign spokeswoman Gillian Morris said there was no coordination, calling the complaint "a laughable attempt to attack her because they're running scared and they're seeing the writing on the wall." Robert Kraig, executive director for Citizen Action said the actions were completely unfounded.[27]

Ads relating to the campaign

Petitions challenged

Darling filed a challenge to her recall on May 5, stating that 4,952 signatures were invalid for a variety of reasons. She also said that the petitioner did not file a statement of registration.[28] In the challenge Darling argued the petition must be found insufficient because the circulator failed to file a registration statement per Wisconsin statute.[29] At its meeting on May 31, the Board upheld some of the challenges, but ultimately gave the go ahead for a recall election.

Certification challenge delays

On May 27, 2011, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board announced it would be unable to consider the recall petitions for the three Democratic incumbents at the May 31 meeting. Citing "numerous factual and legal issues," the Board said in its statement that more time was needed to ensure that a complete record would be available for examination -- particularly since the decision would likely be appealed to the courts.[30]

In a release, GAB officials said they did not expect to be able to hold a hearing on the recalls of Democratic incumbents until the week of June 6, which raised potential legal issues, as the initial extension granted to GAB for certification required it to ultimately make determinations before June 3.[30]

The board went ahead with hearings on May 31 for the recalls of Republican incumbents Sheila Harsdorf, Robert Cowles and Darling.[31] Officials released a 125-page memo on May 27, 2011 concerning the signatures and legal challenges.

The GAB filed a brief on June 1 asking the court for a one-week extension, which would give them until June 10 to finish working on the three Democratic recalls. The case was heard in Dane County Court at 1:30 pm on Friday, June 3.[32][33] Dane County Judge John Markson ruled that there was good cause for the extension, and that the GAB did not violate any rules by taking up the petitions out of order.[34]

Ultimately, on June 8, after nearly 9 hours of deliberations, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board certified the recalls of three Democratic incumbents and set an initial election for July 19.[35]

Legal challenges

Attorneys for Dan 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.[36]

On June 7, 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.[37][38] Jeremy Levinson, attorney for the Democrats, filed motions with the court on June 14, asking them to throw out the Republican's "meritless" challenges.[39]

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.[40]

Campaign contributions

Candidate fundraising

According to a report filed the last week of April, Darling's campaign had raised $422,000 so far during 2011, and spent $206,000. Out of the 9 senators facing a potential recall, Darling's campaign by far raised the most. Second to her was Dan Kapanke, who was ultimately defeated.[41] An investigation by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign found Darling's campaign report failed to disclose occupation and/or employer information about 4 campaign contributions totaling $950.[42]

Alberta Darling Campaign Finance Reports (GAB ID No. 102511)
Report Date Filed Beginning Balance Total Contributions (Expenditures) Cash on Hand
Special Pre-Election[43] August 1, 2011 $401,382.06 $165,155.26 $(431,108.03) $135,429.29
July Continuing[44] July 5, 2011 $219,730.51 $536,478.52 $(354,826.97) $401,382.06
Special Pre-Election[45] April 25, 2011 $177,862.80 $232,713.56 $(190,845.85) $219,730.51
Spring Pre-Election[46] April 15, 2011 $4,215.68 $189,226.25 $(15,579.13) $177,862.80

The following political action committees have made donations to Alberta Darling:

  • Concerned Realtors Committee
  • Friends of McReynolds
  • IFAPAC Wisconsin
  • Milwaukee Police Association Political Action Committee
  • Milwaukee Professional Firefighters Local 215
  • Wisconsin Insurance Alliance PAC
  • WPSR Employees PAC

Official reports

Recall committees

Two separate committees are raising money to support recalling Sen. Darling: the Committee to Recall Darling, and Friends of the Committee to Recall Darling. As of the April 25, 2011 filing, they had jointly raised $91,380.93 and spent $84,876.65.

Committee to Recall Darling Campaign Finance Reports (GAB ID No. 600009)
Report Date Filed Beginning Balance Total Contributions (Expenditures) Cash on Hand
Special Pre-Election[47] April 28, 2011 $735.00 $63,015.51 $(63,243.37) $507.14
Spring Pre-Election[48] March 28, 2011 $0.00 $17,549.42 $(16,814.42) $735.00
Friends of the Committee to Recall Darling Campaign Finance Reports (GAB ID No. 501446)
Report Date Filed Beginning Balance Total Contributions (Expenditures) Cash on Hand
Special Pre-Election[49] April 25, 2011 $0.00 $10,816.00 $(4,818.86) $5,997.14


Conducted July 21-24

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%

Additional reading

Official documents

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


See also

External links


  1. Patch, "Darling Recall Effort Promises 'Big Announcement'," April 20, 2011
  2. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Recall beat gets hot; anti-Darling group files signatures," April 21, 2011
  3. Talking Points Memo, "Wis. Elections Staff Recommend Recalls Against Three GOPers," May 20, 2011
  4. Times-Union, "GAB green-lights recall efforts against Darling," May 31, 2011
  5. Today's TMJ, "Capitol Chaos: Pasch vs. Darling in Recall," May 5, 2011
  6. WISN, "Pasch Announces Candidacy In Darling Recall Election," May 5, 2011
  7. Menomonee Falls Patch, "Pasch vs. Darling: What Will It Take To Win?" May 28, 2011
  8. WISN, "'Fake Democrat' Enters Wisconsin Recall Race," June 9, 2011
  9. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "July 12 Primary Election Results District 8," accessed August 11, 2011
  10. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "District 8 Recall Election Results," accessed August 19, 2011
  11. 620 WTMJ, "Capitol Chaos: Redistricting Plays Role in Recall," May 5, 2011
  12. FOX6 NOW, “Candidates in State Senate District #8 recall election hit the streets,” June 19, 2011 (dead link)
  13. WISN, “Candidates Knock On Doors Ahead of Recall Elections,” June 18, 2011 (dead link)
  14. Sandy Pasch for State Senate, “Darling Votes to Increase Spending by More Than $1 Billion.” June 14, 2011
  15. PolitiFact, “Wisconsin Rep. Sandy Pasch says Sen. Alberta Darling voted to add $1 billion in spending while cutting education and health care,” June 20. 2011
  16. WisPolitics, "Sandy Pasch: Darling ducks debates," July 13, 2011
  17. WisPolitics, “Pasch Campaign: Darling continues to duck debate,” July 20, 2011
  18. WisBusiness, “Milwaukee Press Club: Newsmaker Luncheons to feature Darling and Pasch,” July 21, 2011
  19. ‘’WISN, “Lawmakers Discuss ‘Toxic’ Atmosphere At Capitol,” July 23, 2011 (dead link)
  20. 20.0 20.1 Whitefish Bay Patch, ”Pasch, Darling’s First Debate a Heated One,” July 24, 2011 (dead link)
  21. WisPolitics, “WisPolitics: Darling, Pasch spar in first joint appearance of 8th SD recall campaign,” July 25, 2011
  22. WisPolitics, “WisDems: Latest Darling shocker -- ‘I’m a pro-education candidate (?!?!)’,” July 25, 2011
  23. Citizen Action of Wisconsin Facebook page, "Info," accessed August 1, 2011
  24. Citizen Action, "Citizen Action of Wisconsin Board of Directors," accessed August 1, 2011
  25. WisPolitics, "WisGOP:Asks for investigation into Pasch’s Citizen Action connection." August 1, 2011
  26. WisPolitics, "Darling Campaign:Sandy Pasch must come clean on coordination," August 1, 2011
  27. Fox Point-Bayside Patch, "GOP Files Complaint over Possible Collusion Between Pasch, Outside Group," August 1, 2011
  28. WisPolitics, "Election Blog: Dems, Darling challenge recall petitions," May 6, 2011
  29. Darling challenge to recall petition, May 5, 2011
  30. 30.0 30.1 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Review of recall petitions going slowly; July 12 election in doubt," May 27, 2011
  31. Greenfield Reporter, "Wis. election officials delay decision on recall petitions for Dems, may need date change," May 27, 2011
  32. WisPolitics, "GAB formally asks judge for more time to consider recall petitions against Dems," June 1, 2011
  33. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "State board requests more time to review recall petitions," June 1, 2011
  34. NBC 15, "UPDATE: Judge Grants Week Extension for Recall Review," June 3, 2011
  35. WISN, “GAB Certifies 3 Democratic Recall Elections,” June 8, 2011 (dead link)
  36. Wisconsin State Journal, "Recall-targeted GOP senators challenge validity of petitions," June 1, 2011
  37. Superior Telegram, "GOP planning lawsuit over Republican senator recalls," June 8, 2011
  38. Leader-Telegram, "Harsdorf, other GOP senators sue to stop recalls," June 9, 2011
  39., "Recall campaigns ask court to throw out 'meritless' challenges," June 14. 2011
  40. WUWM, "Judges Rules Senate Recalls Can Proceed," July 8, 2011
  41. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Darling, other recall targets raising big money," April 28, 2011
  42. FDL Reporter, 'State group files campaign finance complaints against 3 recall targets,” June 7, 2011
  43. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN: GAB-2: Friends of Alberta Darling," August 1, 2011
  44. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN: GAB-2: Friends of Alberta Darling," July 5, 2011
  45. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN GAB-2: Friends of Alberta Darling," April 25, 2011
  46. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN GAB-2: Friends of Alberta Darling," April 15, 2011
  47. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN GAB-2: Committee to Recall Darling," April 28, 2011
  48. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN GAB-2: Committee to Recall Darling," March 28, 2011
  49. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN GAB-2: Friends of the Committee to Recall Darling," April 25, 2011