Debates aim to heat up Wisconsin recalls

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July 25, 2011

By 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: With just over two weeks to go before the next set of recall elections, it appears that debate season may have begun in earnest. Yesterday saw a heated first meeting of the candidates in the 8th District, while two debates have been set in the 32nd, and the challenger in the 22nd called out his opponent for not yet accepting debate invitations. Although there have been few actual debates thus far, rhetoric surrounding them has been high throughout the campaigns.

Pasch vs. Darling

Over the weekend Alberta Darling and Sandy Pasch met face-to-face for the first time on the TV show “UpFront with Mike Gousha.”[1] By all accounts the debate was a contentious one, with Darling refusing to acknowledge Pasch and both candidates continually interrupting one another.[2]

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.”[2] One issue they did agree on was the need for bipartisanship, but neither offered concrete ideas for achieving it.[3]

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."[4]

As we reported last week, it looked as if an actual debate might not take place in the 8th District, with Pasch announcing her acceptance of six debates, while Darling had accepted only one being put on by the Milwaukee Press Club, which is not a true debate. Pasch and Darling will meet again on August 3 at a forum sponsored by the Menomonee Falls Rotary Club.[5]

Steitz vs. Wirch

Jonathan Steitz’s campaign issued a call today for Robert Wirch to debate the issues. According to a press release from Steitz, three organizations - the Kenosha Area Business Association, the American Association of University Women, and WLIP radio - have invited the candidates to take part in debates, but Wirch has yet to respond. “Wirch is unwilling to stand on his record so he can avoid public discussion at all costs," Steitz said.[6]

Shilling vs. Kapanke

Two meetings between the candidates in the 32nd District have been set. Dan Kapanke and Jennifer Shilling will meet in a forum sponsored by the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups and the Wisconsin Alliance of Retired Americans on August 4 and in a debate co-sponsored by the La Crosse Tribune and WKBT-TV on August 5.[7]

King vs. Hopper

Jessica King called on Randy Hopper to stop airing a TV ad that alleges she voted to raise her salary while on the Oshkosh Common Council by 63 percent. His campaign refused the request and is standing by the ad. King says she voted against the 2008 ordinance, which is confirmed by city records. Records also indicate that the raise would have been 56 percent, not 63.[8] PolitiFact gave the claim by Hopper a “Pants on Fire” rating.[9]

Last Friday, Hopper’s campaign announced the “18 ways in 18 days campaign,” which will highlight differences between him and King each day until the recall. So far issues have included job creation[10] and taxes.[11]


Last week, the Wisconsin State Legislature passed new legislative and congressional maps without the support of any Democrats, who called the plans an unconstitutional power grab. They also argued the process was moving too quickly and that Republicans moved up the timetable in order to finish the new maps before the recalls, which could potentially give Democrats control of the Senate. The proposals now go to Gov. Scott Walker, who is expected to approve them. Democrats have already had a lawsuit filed and have promised that the courts will have a say before the process is completed.

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