Little controversy in Wisconsin recall primaries as Democratic candidates defeat GOP-backed opponents

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July 12, 2011

By Geoff Pallay and Greg Janetka

MADISON, Wisconsin: Step 1 is complete on the road to recalls in Wisconsin.

All six senate recall primaries tonight resulted in the Democratic Party candidate defeating a "fake" Democrat.

The stage is now set for recall elections of 6 Republican incumbents on August 9.

Most of the primaries were not close, with 5 of the 6 winners garnering more than 60% of the vote. However, one race was close, between Shelly Moore and Isaac Weix. Moore led 54%-46% with 97% of precincts reporting.

Voters headed to the polls in 25 counties across Wisconsin.

Total Number of Votes Cast in 2008 State Senate Elections
District Democratic primary Republican primary General election total
71 (No candidate) 5,361 (Cowles) 60,900
8,748 (Sheldon Wasserman) 12,561 (Darling) 99,328
4,805 (Alison Page) 4,204 (Harsdorf) 98,967
24 (No candidate) 5,732 (Olsen) 54,486
1,849 (King) 5,803 (Hopper) 83,724
1,983 (Tara Johnson) 1,877 (Kapanke) 87,881

Meanwhile, stories throughout the day were conflicting with respect to the level of voter turnout. Some stories reported polls to be slow,[1] while others detailed a high number of voters.[2]

The final numbers tell a clear story -- when it comes to primaries, voter turnout was in fact high. For example, in District 14, the race between Fred Clark and Rol Church drew more than 20,000 votes cast. In the general election of 2008, only 54,486 total votes were cast in District 14. In other words, tonight’s primary had roughly 40% of the total votes cast as in 2008. In fact, three of the six districts -- 8, 10 and 32 -- saw more than 30,000 total voters head to the polls today. Those figures mean nearly 1/3 of the voters from 2008's general election voted in today's primaries. During the primaries of 2008, only one district had a combined number of votes exceed 20,000 (District 8).

In all six districts tonight, the total number of votes cast surpassed the total votes cast in the 2008 senate primary contests in the same districts.

Special elections generally garner far fewer voters than a general election. In most of the special elections that have taken place in state legislatures this year, the actual election receives about 20-30% of the total voters from the previous regular election. Yet in Wisconsin, even the primary itself captured voters enough to reach or eclipse that level -- likely setting up a possibility that voter turnout in the recall election could equal that of a general election.

In District 18, 416 votes were cast in Winnebago County before the early voting deadline on Friday.[3]

Here are the six districts and the winners with vote totals:

District 2

July 12 Democratic primary[4]
Candidates Votes Percent
Nancy Nusbaum Approveda 14,197 65.04%
Otto Junkermann 7,578 34.72%
Scattering 54 0.25%
  • Mert Summers Note: Summers filed nomination papers with sufficient signatures but did not file final papers to be on the ballot.[5]

Nusbaum will face incumbent Republican Robert Cowles on August 9, 2011.[6]

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

District 8

July 12 Democratic primary[7]
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.

Pasch will face incumbent Republican Alberta Darling on August 9, 2011.[8]

District 10

July 12 Democratic primary[9]
Candidates Votes Percent
Shelly Moore Approveda 19,300 53.98%
Isaac Weix 16,029 44.83%
Scattering 427 1.19%

Moore will face incumbent Republican Sheila Harsdorf on August 9, 2011.[10]

District 14

July 12 Democratic primary[11]
Candidates Votes Percent
Fred Clark Approveda 15,052 66.7%
Rol Church 7,346 32.55%
Scattering 169 0.75%
  • Robert Forseth Note: Forseth filed nomination papers with sufficient signatures but did not file final papers to be on the ballot.

Clark will face incumbent Republican Luther Olsen on August 9, 2011.[12]

District 18

July 12 Democratic primary[13]
Candidates Votes Percent
Jessica King Approveda 19,562 68.21%
John Buckstaff 8,995 31.37%
Scattering 120 0.42%

King will face incumbent Republican Randy Hopper on August 9, 2011.[14]

District 32

July 12 Democratic primary[15]
Candidates Votes Percent
Jennifer Shilling Approveda 25,340 70.19%
James Smith 10,664 29.54%
Scattering 98 0.27%

Shilling will face incumbent Republican Dan Kapanke on August 9, 2011.[16]

See also


  1. Reuters, "Low turnout as Wisconsin recall elections begin," July 12, 2011
  2. Green Bay Gazette, "Polls see higher than expected turnout for recall election," July 12, 2011
  3. The Northwestern, "Voters eager to voice their opinion at Oshkosh polling places; too early to predict voter turnout," July 12, 2011
  4. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board "July 12 primary election results District 2," accessed August 11, 2011
  5. WisPolitics, "WisDems: Dems to end placeholder candidacies in recall elections," June 17, 2011
  6. WAOW "Democrat Nusbaum defeats fake Democrat," July 12, 2011]
  7. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "July 12 Primary Election Results District 8," accessed August 11, 2011
  8. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Pasch tops fake Democrat to face Darling," July 12, 2011
  9. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board "July 12 Primary Election Results District 10," accessed August 11, 2011
  10. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Moore advances to face Harsdorf," July 12, 2011
  11. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "July 12 Primary Election Results District 14," accessed July 11, 2011
  12. NBC 15 "State Senate District 14: Democrat Clark Defeats Fake Democrat," July 12, 2011
  13. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "July 12 Primary Election Results District 18," accessed July 11, 2011
  14. Channel, "Democrat King defeats 'Fake' Democrat," July 12, 2011
  15. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "July 12 Primary Results District 32," accessed August 11, 2011
  16. WISN "State Rep. Shilling Wins 32nd Dist. Primary," July 12, 2011 (dead link)
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