Tomorrow marks first recall election of a Wisconsin state senator since 2003

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July 18, 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: Tomorrow night the fate of the first incumbent state senator targeted for recall will be determined. Beginning at 7 a.m. CST, citizens of the 30th District will begin casting their votes to decide if Democrat Dave Hansen retains the seat he has held since 2001, or if he is replaced by Republican challenger David VanderLeest. Additionally, Republican primaries will take place in the 12th and 22nd Districts. Unlike the Democratic primaries, none of the candidates are "fake" or "protest" candidates. Here is an overview of who is running:

District 12

Republican Party July 19 Republican primary:
Looking for election results tomorrow?
Ballotpedia will post results to all three races as they become available

District 22

Republican Party July 19 Republican primary:

District 30

July 19 recall election:
Republican Party David VanderLeest
Democratic Party Dave Hansen

This morning VanderLeest held a press conference at the Brown County Courthouse to announce his intent to file a slander lawsuit against a number of Democratic and third-party organizations for accusations they have made during the campaign. VanderLeest’s attorney said he is finalizing the suit and could not provide a timetable or details on what court it will be filed in.[1]

A transcript of the conference released by VanderLeest states:[2]

False accusations have plagued this campaign. False slander Chicago style mob politics must stop in WI. The buck stops here. We are not going to allow these tactics to destroy tangible debates on real issues which face WI. The people will stand not for it, and neither will I. I truth is I was never found guilt [sic] of Domestic Violence in the State of WI. I was given primary care of my child in a messy divorce, and was never found guilty of abusing anyone. For these reasons I will be filling a slander lawsuit against Friends of Dave Hansen, DLCC, Greater WI Political Fund, We are WI, Politiscoop, The Green Bay Progressive, and One WI Now.

VanderLeest did not take any questions. Hansen said he was not concerned about the suit, stating, "He can say whatever he wants to say. I'm concerned about this election tomorrow and moving this state forward."[3]

Steitz vs. Ekornaas

Third Coast Digest interviewed Jonathan Steitz and Fred Ekornaas to clarify the differences between the two Republicans. Steitz said that, along with leaving the state in response to the budget repair bill, incumbent Robert Wirch has been out of touch with the district on a number of issues, including supporting higher taxes. Ekornaas, on the other hand, said, "The only issue is that he left the state. That is all anybody cares about."[4]

When asked why they were the better choice to face Wirch, Steitz stressed his private-sector experience as an attorney and small business owner, going on to say, "I don’t view a political office as a career. Not only that, but I have the strategy, resources and grassroots support that it will take to defeat Sen. Wirch in August."[4]

Ekornaas, who currently serves as Vice-Chair of the Kenosha County Board of Supervisors, said, "I am a proven conservative with a history in the community. I am respected and trusted by the people as opposed to a Chicago corporate attorney with no name recognition."[4]

Republicans in the state legislature are expected to vote this week on newly proposed district maps. If they are approved as they currently stand, incumbent Wirch, Steitz, and Ekornaas will all live outside of the 22nd District. The winner of the August 16 recall would hold the seat until the fall 2012 election, but would then have to move if they decide to seek re-election. Wirch said that the changes to the district are "a clear indication of gerrymandering."[5]

Simac vs. Lussow

Over in the 12th District, Kim Simac and Robert Lussow are facing off for the chance to take on Democrat Jim Holperin in the August 16 recall. Lussow, who has not been campaigning nearly as much as his opponent, stressed that his previous political experience sets him apart. He said he largely decided to run due to increased partisanship in the legislature. "I am adamantly opposed to the partisanship that is being shown by both parties. I would give an 'F' to both parties. They have to talk to one another and they're not doing it," he said. If elected, voters would get someone who is willing to speak his mind and to listen."[6]

Simac, who began and organized the recall against Holperin, said, if elected, "I will be a person who will be dedicated to representing all the people of the 12th Senate District."[6]

Darling vs. Pasch

A poll recently released by the state Democratic Party shows Alberta Darling and Sandy Pasch are running neck and neck. Conducted for the Democrats by the Mellman Group, 47 percent of the 350 likely voters surveyed said they supported Pasch, with 46 percent for Darling. A previous poll in May showed Pasch trailing Darling 48 to 39 percent.[7]

John Hogan, executive director of the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate, said the survey was a "partisan poll done by a known Democratic polling firm."[8]

Harsdorf vs. Moore

As we chronicled on Friday, Sheila Harsdorf (R) and Shelly Moore (D) will meet in a series of debates, but the candidates are differing on the number they say they have agreed to. A press release from Moore outlined four debates[9], but Harsdorf’s campaign said they only accepted three, as Moore originally proposed back in May. The one in question is scheduled to be put on by the American Association of University Women on July 27. Harsdorf’s campaign says they signed the recall petition and may have donated to Moore’s campaign, and because of that, they are not interested in participating.[10] The three debates that both candidates have agreed to are:

  • July 25 - Hudson Patch Debate
  • July 28 - Chamber of Commerce Debate
  • August 4 - Wisconsin Public Radio Candidate Forum

Meanwhile, both campaigns continue to go on the attack, with the state Democratic Party unveiling a new website last week, "Hypocritical Harsdorf." The site contains information that Democrats say shows Harsdorf changed her positions on a number of issues, including education, spending, and accepting PAC funds. follows an earlier attack site set up by Harsdorf’s campaign, "," which, according to her campaign, "has video evidence of Moore’s angry anti-taxpayer rhetoric and rule breaking."[11]

Wisconsin Democratic Party Press Secretary said the new site is not a response to "Moore Taxes," but rather "has been a work in progress as we've seen these drastic flip-flops from Senator Harsdorf on major issues facing voters in western Wisconsin."[11]

Hopper vs. Clark

Randy Hopper (R) and Jessica King (D) will meet in a candidate forum from 6:30-7:30 CST tonight sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Winnebago County and Oshkosh Community Media Services. It will be open to the public and streamed live online.[12]

Olsen vs. Clark

After a number of failed attempts and accusations, Fred Clark (D) and Luther Olsen have agreed to a series of debates taking place on three consecutive days from July 26-28, with a fourth being proposed. The first is being sponsored by the Adams-Columbia Electric Cooperative, and will have no audience participation, but the public may suggest questions beforehand. The second will be put on by the Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce, with the third sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Ripon Area.[13]

Meanwhile, last week the state Democratic Party sent a formal letter to six television stations asking them to pull an ad paid for by Wisconsin Family Action which they say is "shameful" and "grossly mischaracterizes and purposely deceives the voters about Fred Clark and his strong commitment to his family."[14] The ad alleges that Clark stated his child support payments "weren't a huge priority."

See also


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