Dave Hansen recall, Wisconsin State Senate (2011)

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Dave Hansen

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

Other Recall Information
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A campaign to recall Dave Hansen, a member of the Democratic Party, from his elected position representing District 30 in the Wisconsin State Senate took place in 2011. Hansen easily defeated his opponent, David VanderLeest, to retain his seat.

Path to the ballot

About 18,872 signatures to recall Hansen 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.[1] In early May the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board verified 17,099 signatures on the petition against Hansen, enough to force a recall. GAB initially disqualified over 1,700 and had to review some 5,500 that were challenged by Hansen.[2] Challenges to the petition were set to be reviewed by the board on May 31[3], but were pushed back to June 8.

After hearing challenges to the petitions made by the incumbents, as well as presentations from the respective recall committees and board staff, the Board certified 15,540 signatures to recall Hansen[4], approving the election for July 19.

Location of Wisconsin State Senate District 30
Map of Wisconsin Senate District 30


Mary Scray, vice chair of the Brown County Board, announced in late April that she would probably run against Hansen in a recall.[5] However, on May 26, 2011, Scray dropped out of the race, citing family and professional responsibilities.[6] Republican state Assemblyman John Nygren announced on May 10 that he would also run.[7] On May 22, David VanderLeest -- who led the recall campaign against Hansen -- also announced his candidacy for the seat.[8] Nygren was removed from the ballot for having an insufficient number of signatures on his nominating petitions, leaving VanderLeest as the only remaining challenger.

July 19 Recall Election

Hansen easily defeated VanderLeest in the recall election.

July 19 Recall[9]
Candidates Votes Percent
Dave Hansen (D) Approveda 22,051 65.93%
David VanderLeest (R) 11,054 33.05%
Scattering 340 1.02%


VanderLeest's campaign released a statement on July 8 challenging Hansen to "a debate on the issues facing Wisconsin, not a debate about distractions."[10]

Later on the same day, he released another statement that said, "We regret the unfortunate decision of Senator Hansen earlier today to deny his constituents a public debate on the issues that affect us all. He has once again proven his inability to discuss anything that really matters in WI. He lists no issues on his web page, and continues to elude political reality. This further illustrates his inability to be an effective representative of ALL his constituents."[11]

No taxes pledge

VanderLeest held a press conference on July 14 outside of the Brown County Courthouse where he signed a pledge saying he would not increase taxes if elected and said he would not talk about his personal issues.[12]

He referred to the election as “a referendum on whether Wisconsinites approve or disapprove of senators being derelict of duty for 26 days and going AWOL to the state of Illinois.”[13]

Nominating papers challenged

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin filed challenges against the nominating papers of VanderLeest, Kim Simac, Robert Lussow, and John Nygren on June 24. The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board considered the challenges on June 27,[14] certifying all of the candidates except for Nygren. While he turned in 424, the Board found only 398 of those to be valid, two short of the 400 necessary to make the ballot.[15]

Nygren appealed the GAB decision in circuit court,[16] but the original decision was upheld. Nygren blamed the outcome on “Democrat-appointed GAB staff that has constantly worked against me as I defended myself from the Democratic Party’s frivolous challenges.”[17]

Ads relating to the campaign

Petition challenged

Democrats challenged the petition to recall Hansen on May 5, citing widespread fraud. Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller said they found "Circulators lying and misleading people about what the petitions are all about, circulators tricking people into signing, Wisconsin citizens learning their names appeared on the petitions when they never intended to sign, and other infractions."[18] Democrats say that of 372 people they contacted who had signed the petition, 8.6% said they were misled into signing or never actually signed.[19]

Democrats also challenged the petitions against Jim Holperin and Robert Wirch.

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, 2011 meeting. Citing "numerous factual and legal issues," the Board said in its statement that more time is needed to ensure that a complete record will be available for examination -- particularly since the decision will likely be appealed to the courts.[20]

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.[20]

The board went ahead with hearings on May 31 for the recalls of Republican incumbents Sheila Harsdorf, Robert Cowles and Alberta Darling.[21] 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.[22][23] 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.[24]

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.[25]

Legal challenges

Following the certification of the recall petitions against the three targeted Democrats on June 8, Jeremy Levinson, attorney for the incumbent Democrats, did not immediately indicate whether an appeal would be filed based on the GAB’s ruling.[26] Soon after, the party appealed the decision with the Dane County Circuit Court due to what they said was widespread fraud.

State Chairman Mike Tate said, "The GAB agreed that out-of-state circulators hired by the Republican Party to gather recall signatures committed repeated and flagrant acts of election fraud upon the people of Wisconsin. A higher authority should review this stunning conspiracy to defraud the voters, and throw out all the signatures gathered by these deceitful circulators."[27]

While thousands of signatures were rejected by the Board, Democrats said that if Wisconsin statutes were followed to the letter there would not be enough signatures for any of the recalls.[28]

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.[29]

Campaign contributions

Candidate fundraising

On June 7, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign filed campaign finance charges against Hansen for failing to disclose occupation and employer information about campaign contributions. Hansen’s campaign report covering January 1 to April 18 was found to be missing information on 14 contributions totaling $2,939.[30]

Dave Hansen Campaign Finance Reports (GAB ID No. 103835)
Report Date Filed Beginning Balance Total Contributions (Expenditures) Cash on Hand
Special Pre-Primary[31] July 11, 2011 $250,798.75 $976.00 $(8,628.00) $243,146.75
July Continuing[32] July 11, 2011 $179,491.22 $189,412.77 $(118,105.24) $250,798.75
Special Pre-Election[33] April 25, 2011 $140,778.38 $91,168.79 $(52,455.95) $179,491.22
Spring Pre-Election[34] April 15, 2011 $106,603.30 $36,268.55 $(2,093.47) $140,778.38

The following political action committees made donations to Dave Hansen:

  • Bay Lakes United Educators PAC
  • Capital Area Uniserv North PAC
  • Capital Area Uniserv South PAC
  • Democratic Party of Wisconsin
  • Friends of Paul Fisk
  • International Boilermakers - Blacksmiths
  • Lakewood Uniserve Council PAC
  • Local 158 PAC
  • MTI Voters (Voice of Teachers)
  • Plumbers/Steamfitters 434 PAC
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Sheet Metal Workers International League
  • Rock Valley Education Professionals
  • United Transportation Union PAC
  • West Central Education Association Political Action Committee
  • Wisconsin Bricklayers PAC
  • Wisconsin Education Association Council-Fox Valley PAC
  • Winnebagoland Uniserv PAC

Official reports

Recall committees

Two committees, Recall Dave Hansen and the Committee to Recall Dave Hansen, filed reports with the GAB as of the April 25, 2011 filing. Together, they raised and spent $1,359.45.

Recall Dave Hansen Campaign Finance Reports (GAB ID No. 600006)
Report Date Filed Beginning Balance Total Contributions (Expenditures) Cash on Hand
Special Pre-Election[35] April 25, 2011 $18.22 $245.00 $(263.22) $0.00
Spring Pre-Election[36] March 28, 2011 $0.00 $1,114.45 $(1,096.23) $18.22

The Committee to Recall Dave Hansen declared that it had no activity for both filing periods.

Committee to Recall Dave Hansen Campaign Finance Reports (GAB ID No. 600017)
Report Date Filed Beginning Balance Total Contributions (Expenditures) Cash on Hand
Special Pre-Election[37] April 21, 2011 $ - $ - $( - ) $ -
Spring Pre-Election[38] April 19, 2011 $ - $ - $( - ) $ -

Restraining order dismissed

A restraining order petition against the Democratic Party of Wisconsin was brought by the committee to recall Dave Hansen, alleging Democrats made intimidating phone calls to people who had signed recall petitions.

David VanderLeest, who filed the petition, said, “They called 18,000 people, some of them five, six, ten times, telling them they know where they lived.” Gillian Morris of the Democratic Party said no one was harassed, that they called each person on the petition once to ask if they had been misled when signing it. Ultimately, on May 16 the restraining order petition was thrown out for a procedural error.[39]

City Hall controversy

Recall efforts within Green Bay's City Hall raised a controversy, with opponents questioning if such a partisan campaign should take place within the building that houses the nonpartisan city government. Alderman and City Council President Tom DeWane said, "I think it's most inappropriate. I've never heard of such a thing." The campaign was collecting signatures and selling T-shirts as a fundraiser. After consulting with the city attorney, officials could not find any policy against such action, and had to allow it to proceed.[40]

Additional reading

Official documents

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



See also

External links


  1. Oshkosh Hub, "State Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, 2 other Senate Democrats on recall list," April 22, 2011
  2. WTAQ, "GAB verifies enough recall Sen. Hansen signitures to move forward," May 12, 2011
  3. Talking Points Memo, "Wis. Elections Staff Recommend Recalls Against Three GOPers," May 20, 2011
  4. WisPolitics, "Dem recalls certified," June 8, 2011
  5. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin Senate recall races tempt Assembly members," April 30, 2011
  6. WFRV 5 "Scary drops out of Sen. Hansen recall race," May 26, 2011
  7. Daily Reporter, "Wisconsin GOP assemblyman to run against Democratic senator in recall election," May 10, 2011
  8. WTAQ, "'Recall Dave Hansen' organizer running for Senate," May 22, 2011 (dead link)
  9. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "July 12 Primary Election Results District 30," accessed August 11, 2011
  10. WisPolitics, "VanderLees Campaign: Statement on granting interviews," July 8, 2011
  11. WisPolitics, "VanderLeest Campaign: Statement on debates," July 8, 2011
  12. ‘’Green Bay Press Gazette, “VanderLeest vows not to raise taxes, won’t talk about past,” July 14, 2011
  13. ‘’WBAY, “Hansen, VanderLeest Face Off in First Recall Election Next Week,” July 13, 2011
  14. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Challenges filed against 4 GOP candidates in recall races," June 25, 2011
  15. ‘’WisPolitics, “GAB kicks Nygren off the ballot,” June 27, 2011
  16. ‘’Wis Politics “Nygren vows to pursue further legal options,” June 27, 2011
  17. WisPolitics, “Nygren Campaign: Statement following Dane County court decision,” July 1, 2011
  18. FOX 11, "State Dems challenge GOP recall efforts," May 5, 2011
  19. Democratic Party of Wisconsin, "GOP Election Fraud Exposed," May 5, 2011
  20. 20.0 20.1 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Review of recall petitions going slowly; July 12 election in doubt," May 27, 2011
  21. Greenfield Reporter, "Wis. election officials delay decision on recall petitions for Dems, may need date change," May 27, 2011
  22. WisPolitics, "GAB formally asks judge for more time to consider recall petitions against Dems," June 1, 2011
  23. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "State board requests more time to review recall petitions," June 1, 2011
  24. NBC 15, "UPDATE: Judge Grants Week Extension for Recall Review," June 3, 2011
  25. WISN, “GAB Certifies 3 Democratic Recall Elections,” June 8, 2011 (dead link)
  26. WFRV “Wis. elections board trims petition signatures,” June 8, 2011
  27. WisPolitics, "WisDems: Dems to appeal GAB decision on widespread GOP election fraud," June 15. 2011
  28. Madison.com, "Dems: Throw out recall petitions," June 15. 2011
  29. WUWM, "Judges Rules Senate Recalls Can Proceed," July 8, 2011
  30. FDL Reporter, 'State group files campaign finance complaints against 3 recall targets,” June 7, 2011
  31. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN GAB-2: Friends of Dave Hansen," July 11, 2011
  32. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN GAB-2: Friends of Dave Hansen," July 11, 2011
  33. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN GAB-2: Friends of Dave Hansen," April 25, 2011
  34. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN GAB-2: Friends of Dave Hansen," April 15, 2011
  35. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN GAB-2: Recall Dave Hansen," April 25, 2011
  36. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN GAB-2: Recall Dave Hansen," March 28, 2011
  37. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN GAB-2: Committee to Recall Dave Hansen," April 21, 2011
  38. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN GAB-2: Committee to Recall Dave Hansen," April 19, 2011
  39. FOX 11, "Restraining order dismissed in Hansen case," May 16, 2011
  40. Green Bay Press Gazette, "State Sen. Dave Hansen recall drive at Green Bay City Hall raises concerns," March 4, 2011