Candidates make last-minute push in advance of last two Wisconsin Senate recall elections next Tuesday

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August 11, 2011

By Geoff Pallay and Greg Janetka

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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

MADISON, Wisconsin: The results from last Tuesday’s recall elections are clear - Republicans held on to four senate seats, while Democrats knocked off two incumbents. Yet the battle over who can claim to have won the larger victory - and just what all those millions of dollars that poured into the state actually achieved - rages on.

John Fund, senior editor of American Spectator, notes that if Democrats lose one of the recalls next Tuesday, they will have spent $35 million to pick up one senate seat. As collective bargaining served as the catalyst for the recalls, most of the money that poured in to support Democrats came from union groups, yet was not actually used to address the issue. Fund said: "It was astonishing to see labor unions spend $35 million of their members’ dues money to beat back Scott Walker’s labor reforms. But the astonishing thing is that for all the money they spent, mostly unsuccessfully, their ads against the Republican incumbents they were trying to recall never talked about the labor law reforms."[1]

Michael Fletcher, an economics correspondent with the Washington Post, referred to the recalls as "an existential fight," for the unions, explaining, "The unions had to push back. Public employees are now the heart of organized labor. They also are a mainstay of Democratic support. So, from their point of view, the fight--whatever its cost--was essential."[2]

Following the results, We Are Wisconsin, the leader of the union groups, issued a statement that framed the recalls as a success. "The fact we've accomplished as much in six months as had been achieved in the 85 years since recalls were put in the Wisconsin state Constitution is a stunning rebuke to Scott Walker's extreme attacks on middle class working families," the statement read.[3]

Meanwhile, other organizations and pundits on all sides, along with both parties, continue to work to positively spin the results. Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair Mike Tate called the results "an accomplishment of historic proportions,"[4] while state Republican Party Executive Director Stephan Thompson said, "The assault that was unleashed on our state by national unions and special interest groups has been defeated by the will of the taxpayers to move our state forward, and put the needs of Wisconsin families above union demands."[5]

Republican State Leadership Committee President Chris Jankowski, called the night a, "tremendous victory," that foreshadows more Republican victories in the coming years;[6] similarly seeing the results as a sign of Democratic victories to come, Michael Sargeant, Executive Director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, said, "What started as 14 Democrats standing up for working families has grown into a national movement to fight back against GOP radicalism!"[7]

An article in The Economist took a more cynical approach to diagnosing the overall winner, using the word "silly" to describe the recalls themselves. The author wrote: "At a very peculiar election, on an unusual date with an atypical electorate in a normally fairly blue state, Democrats did quite well but not brilliantly. Stop the presses."[8]

For his part, Gov. Walker stressed a renewed bipartisanship - "I reached out to the leadership of both the Republicans and Democrats in the Assembly and State Senate. I shared with them that I believe we can work together to grow jobs and improve our state. In the days ahead I look forward to working with legislators of all parties to grow jobs for Wisconsin and move our state forward."[9]

Special Pre-Election Reports

The latest campaign finance reports filed with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board this week show Democratic incumbents Jim Holperin and Robert Wirch greatly outraising and outspending their Republican challengers. However, as was seen in the District 32 recall, money isn’t everything. In that race, incumbent Republican Dan Kapanke raised over $882,000 to Jennifer Shilling’s $332,000, yet Kapanke lost by 10 percentage points.

Recall Fundraising Update as of August 8, 2011
District Candidate Candidate Type Total funds raised for quarter Cash on Hand Total funds raised for year
12 Jim Holperin Incumbent $140,609.77 $141,630.69 $490,952.65
12 Kim Simac Republican Party Republican $109,790.97 $49,698.65 $221,448.75
22 Robert Wirch Incumbent $53,427.35 $91,687.88 $237,728.98
22 Jonathan Steitz Republican Party Republican $38,676.00 $23,257.06 $72,223.40
TOTAL $342,504.09 $306,274.28 $1,022,353.78

Late contribution reports show last-minute infusions of cash on both sides. Simac reported raising $19,200 between August 5-10, while Steitz pulled in $14,600. On the Democratic side, Holperin reported $2,000 in late contributions and Wirch $2,500. Meanwhile, the Greater Wisconsin Political Committee reported at least $66,000 in media ads against Kim Simac.

Holperin vs. Simac

Kim Simac (R) is currently in the midst of a six-day 2,000 mile trip through the 12th District in her pickup truck. She explained- "It was the people of the 12th who were left without representation when Jim Holperin fled the state. I intent to go to every house I can to tell them personally I won’t abandon them when the times get tough."[10] Her campaign today announced a new TV ad that would run during the final days of the election.[11]

Wirch vs. Steitz

Robert Wirch (D) and Jonathan Steitz (R) took part in a Journal Times online forum yesterday, answering questions from readers. Their responses showed clear differences in the candidates, starting with their views on the recall itself. Wirch called it "a waste of taxpayer money put on by radical elements in the Republican Party," while Steitz said, "I believe that a recall is appropriate when an elected official fails to do his job and abdicates his responsibility to represent us in Madison."[12] When asked their top priority, both said jobs, but greatly differed on the means to that end. Steitz called for a simpler tax code with overall reduced taxes, along with reduced regulations in order to promote competition. Wirch advocated for education that would lead to a well-trained workforce.

In an interesting note to the current campaign, the makeup of the 22nd District will be greatly changed next year due to new legislative maps from redistricting. The new map signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Scott Walker (R) removes western Kenosha County from the 22nd and adds the city of Racine, making it a "safe-Democrat" seat. Neither Wirch or Steitz currently live within the new district lines.[13] So regardless of who wins the election on Tuesday, District 22 voters might be electing a new official on November 8, 2012 -- either that or the winner will be moving to a new house.

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