In back and forth evening of recalls, GOP appears to maintain control of Wisconsin Senate

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August 10, 2011

By Geoff Pallay and Greg Janetka

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

MADISON, Wisconsin: Republicans appear to have held onto control of the Wisconsin State Senate last night, despite the fact that two Democratic candidates unseated a Republican incumbent.[1]

Voter turnout in 2008 general election vs. 2011 recalls
District 2008 General Election total votes cast Total received by winner in 2008 Total received by winner in 2011 Total received by loser in 2011 2011 General Election total votes cast
60,900 60,507 (Cowles) 27,543 (Cowles) 18,039 (Nusbaum) 45,582
99,328 50,125 (Darling) 39,471 (Darling)[2] 34,096 (Pasch) 68,448[2]
98,967 55,816 (Harsdorf) 37,099 (Harsdorf) 27,250 (Moore) 73,567
54,486 54,138 (Olsen) 26,554 (Olsen) 24,365 (Clark) 50,919
83,724 41,904 (Hopper) 26,937 (King) 24,365 (Hopper) 55,125
87,881 45,454 (Kapanke) 33,192 (Shilling) 26,937 (Kapanke) 59,916
Totals 485,286 353,557

Chamber control came down to Alberta Darling vs. Sandy Pasch, after the first 5 races were decided fairly early in the evening. The Pasch campaign declared at Midnight CST that it would make no more comments and that it was still reviewing numbers.[3] Meanwhile, Darling announced she was waiting on a call from her opponent -- but Pasch had not yet conceded defeat.[4] Republican strategists maintained the election was clearly over in Darling’s favor, and some media outlets were calling the race for Darling.[5] After 1230pm CST, reports emerged that Pasch had indeed conceded defeat.[6]

If the results of last night hold, Republicans will now have a 17-16 advantage in the Senate -- with two recalls next week representing another chance when that breakdown could change. However, because both incumbents next week are Democrats, the Republicans will keep their partisan advantage regardless of those outcomes.

Wisconsin State Senate Partisan Breakdown Before and After the 2011 Recalls
Party As of August 1, 2011 After the August Recalls
     Democratic Party 14 16
     Republican Party 19 17
Total 33 33

Money poured into these campaigns at historical levels from both Democratic and Republican interests alike. All told, those figures could eclipse $40 million -- a wildly high sum for simple state senate recalls.

In part, the Darling-Pasch contest came down to Milwaukee County and Waukesha County. After the Prosser-Kloppenburg race in April, Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nicholas fell under scrutiny because she had forgotten votes until the day after the election. She is again the target of Democratic leaders, who are now alleging tampering took place in Waukesha County.[7] No word yet on whether a lawsuit will be filed. All told, an unofficial total of 339,458 votes were cast in these 6 recall races (see chart above). In 2008, a total of 485,286 votes were cast in the general election in the 6 districts that held a recall race last night. Thus, fewer voters headed to the polls yesterday to determine if the incumbent would remain in office. Because 2008 was a presidential election year, voter turnout is considered to be at its highest of any possible election. So the fact that last night’s recalls garnered more than 2/3 of the turnout from a presidential election, is representative of the high attention these races received.

Two of the races were decided early in the night, with incumbents Robert Cowles and Sheila Harsdorf declared winners before 10pm CST.

August 9 Recall - District 2[8]
Candidates Votes Percent
Robert Cowles (R) Green check mark transparent.png 27,037 57.44%
Nancy Nusbaum (D) 19,974 42.43%
Scattering 62 .13%
August 9 Recall - District 10[9]
Candidates Votes Percent
Sheila Harsdorf (R) Green check mark transparent.png 37,102 57.6%
Shelly Moore (D) 27,257 42.32%
Scattering 52 .08%

The race between Dan Kapanke and Jennifer Shilling was the first to be called where a senator was successfully recalled. Since the beginning of the recalls, Kapanke was considered to be the most in danger of losing his seat. Shilling’s win will open up her Assembly seat for a special election down the line. Declaring victory, Shilling said, "Tonight, Wisconsin and her citizens have made history. They found their voice and held their elected official accountable for their actions."[10]

August 9 Recall - District 32[11]
Candidates Votes Percent
Jennifer Shilling (D) Green check mark transparent.png 33,193 55.38%
Dan Kapanke (R) 26,724 44.58%
Scattering 25 .04%

Much like their last meeting in the 2008 senate election, the race between Jessica King and Randy Hopper was extremely close, with King ultimately defeating Hopper, making him the second incumbent to be successfully recalled.

August 9 Recall - District 18[12]
Candidates Votes Percent
Jessica King (D) Green check mark transparent.png 28,191 51.1%
Randy Hopper (R) 26,937 48.83%
Scattering 42 .08%

Luther Olsen successfully held on to his seat against Fred Clark. While the two were separated by only 4 percentage points, Olsen led almost the entire night. Seeing the victory as a repudiation of his critics, Olsen said, “They were always saying 'Luther you're not listening to your constituents. Tonight my constituents have spoken and we are on the path to recovery. We are moving the state forward and we did what the folks of the 14th Senate District wanted us to do.”[13]

August 9 Recall - District 14[14]
Candidates Votes Percent
Luther Olsen (R) Green check mark transparent.png 26,553 52.1%
Fred Clark (D) 24,355 47.79%
Scattering 56 .11%

The new senators -- Shilling and King -- will be sworn-in once the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board certifies the results. By law, the GAB must complete the certification within 18 days.[15]

Since state legislative recalls have been tracked, a total of 21 state legislators had faced recall prior to last night. Of those 21, a total of 13 were recalled by voters. The two that were recalled last night brings the grand total to 15. Since 1908, a new total of 27 elected state legislators have faced recall.

See also


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