Randy Hopper recall, Wisconsin State Senate (2011)

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Randy Hopper

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 BoardElection Results
A campaign to recall Randy Hopper, a member of the Republican Party, from his elected position representing District 18 in the Wisconsin State Senate took place in 2011. Supporters of the recall said Hopper was targeted because of his support of Gov. Scott Walker's Budget Repair Bill.[1] Hopper stood by his support of the bill, stating, "I absolutely would’ve voted the same way knowing how it’s all turned out, because it’s the right thing in moving our state forward."[2]

Hopper lost to Jessica King in the recall election on August 9, 2011.

Path to ballot

23,946 signatures to recall Hopper were filed on April 7, 2011.[3] This set of signatures was the second set of signatures filed in the sixteen different state senate recalls that are underway in Wisconsin.[4]

Location of Wisconsin State Senate District 18

On May 9, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board verified 23,127 signatures, 15,269 were necessary to force a recall. Hopper challenged the petitions, citing missing paperwork as well as the possibility of hundreds of invalid signatures. The Board heard arguments on May 23, and,[5] following GAB staff recommendation that the recall be approved, [6] rejected most of the challenges and verified 22,953 signatures.[7] This cleared the way for a recall election to be held July 12.[8] The Board officially certified the recall against Hopper on June 3, effectively setting the election for July 12, but since multiple opposing candidates filed, a primary was held on that date, while the recall took place August 9, 2011.


Oshkosh attorney Jessica King announced on April 13 that she would run against Hopper in a recall.[9] King narrowly lost to Hopper in 2008.[10]

Efforts by GOP officials put John Buckstaff on the ballot as a Democratic "protest" candidate, forcing a primary between Buckstaff and King, delaying the actual recall election by four weeks. Hopper said he would have liked the recall election to happen as soon as possible.[11]

Stephan Thompson, Executive Director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, issued a statement on June 6 indicating that the party advocated fake candidates run because Republicans were at a disadvantage. "Because of this disadvantage, and the outrageous nature of elected officials facing recall for standing up for a balanced budget, the Republican Party of Wisconsin has advocated that protest candidates run in Democratic primaries to ensure that Republican legislators have ample time to communicate with voters throughout their districts after the state budget is approved," he said.[12]

Democratic Senate Leader Mark Miller called the move "Nixonion tactics," saying, "we don't need to waste taxpayer money on phony elections to help these Republicans duck the voters and needlessly delay these elections."[13]

Buckstaff flyers

Supporters of Hopper began distributing flyers in the district to get out the vote for Buckstaff in the July 12 primary.[14] The flyer described King as a "Pro-Union Extremist" who would put unions first "even if it bankrupts Wisconsin." Meanwhile, Buckstaff was described as "Pro-Wisconsin," saying he would "eliminate special privileges for government unions." The flyer was paid for by a group called "Patriot Advisors."[15]

King issued a statement in response, saying, "It is simply astonishing that the Wisconsin Republicans are so desperate they feel they need turn out voters in the fake primary. The GOP continues to resort to more dirty tricks because they know the voters are responding positively to my message that public servants must stand up for working families and seniors rather than big corporations and the wealthy elite."[16]


Randy Hopper and Jessica King participated in a debate on July 18, 2011.

Hopper and King met in a candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Winnebago County and Oshkosh Community Media Services (OCMS) on July 18. It was open to the public and streamed live online.[17]

The debate offered little in the way of surprises, with Hopper defending his record and King focusing on education, labor issues, and benefits for seniors.[18]

The following day both campaigns issued press releases declaring victory. Hopper stated, "The debate showed two contrasting views on how we should govern here in our state. There’s my approach where I have reduced taxes, balanced our budget, and have focused on job creation here in Wisconsin. Or there is the tax and spend policies of Jessica King."[19]

Meanwhile, King stated, "I promise to fight for students, the elderly and middle class families, not big corporations and the extremely wealthy. This debate showed how I will bring a positive message, honest leadership and an ability to work together to the Wisconsin Senate in order to solve the challenges facing the state today."[20]

July 12 Democratic Primary

King easily defeated Buckstaff in the primary.

July 12 Democratic primary[21]
Candidates Votes Percent
Jessica King Approveda 19,562 68.21%
John Buckstaff 8,995 31.37%
Scattering 120 0.42%

August 9 recall

King defeated Hopper in the recall.

August 9 Recall - District 18[22]
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%

Ads relating to the campaign

Ad controversy

King called on Hopper to stop airing a TV ad that alleged she voted to raise her salary while on the Oshkosh Common Council by 63 percent. His campaign refused the request and stood by the ad. King said she voted against the 2008 ordinance, which was confirmed by city records. Records also indicated that the raise would have been 56 percent, not 63.[23] PolitiFact gave the claim a “Pants on Fire” rating.[24]

The ad wars continued with another PolitiFact investigation released July 26, this time dealing with claims made against Hopper in an ad by King.[25]

The TV ad in question, released on July 12, stated “Senator Hopper didn’t pay taxes,” while the middle class did, citing an October 2008 article in the Fond du Lac Reporter as the source. Records from the state Department of Revenue show that Hopper’s five businesses did not have any state income tax liability between 1998 and 2007, and during that period Hopper himself only had a tax liability in 2006, which he appeard to have paid. PolitiFact gave the claim a “Barely True” rating.[25]

Petition challenged

Hopper officially challenged the recall petition against him on April 21, arguing the petition was invalid because the petitioner failed to properly file a registration statement per Wisconsin statue. At a meeting of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board on May 23, the Board rejected this argument.[26]

Hopper additionally challenged some 944 signatures,[27] which was not nearly enough to invalidate the petition. At their meeting on May 23, the GAB rejected most of the challenges.

Signature forged

Former Oshkosh school board member Dan Becker said that someone forged his signature on a petition to recall Hopper. His correct name and address appeared on the petition, but he said he never signed it and that it called into question the validity of the other signatures.[28]

Legal challenges

Attorneys for Dan Kapanke, Luther Olsen, and Hopper filed petitions in Dane County Court on May 31 seeking to stop the recall elections against them. Their argument was based on improperly filed paperwork, similar to the argument they previously used before the GAB and saw rejected. The court petitions alleged that recall petitioners did not correctly register with the GAB and thus the 60-day period to collect signatures did not start, meaning every signature collected was "dated outside the circulation period" and therefore invalid.[29]

On June 7, Alberta Darling, Sheila Harsdorf, and Robert Cowles joined their fellow Republicans in filing suit against the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board in Dane County Circuit Court. Their lawsuits alleged that signatures on the recall petitions were invalid because of improperly filed paperwork.[30][31] Jeremy Levinson, attorney for the Democrats, filed motions with the court on June 14, asking them to throw out the Republican's "meritless" challenges.[32]

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.[33]

Campaign contributions

Candidate fundraising

On June 7, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign filed campaign finance charges against Hopper for failing to disclose occupation and employer information about campaign contributions. Hopper’s campaign report covering January 1 to April 18 was found to be missing employer information on 23 contributions totaling $42,650.[34]

Randy Hopper Campaign Finance Reports (GAB ID No. 104739)
Report Date Filed Beginning Balance Total Contributions (Expenditures) Cash on Hand
Special Pre-Election[35] August 1, 2011 $92,461.39 $106,102.96 $(41,213.10) $157,351.25
July Continuing[36] July 5, 2011 $94,114.29 $26,645.63 $(26,298.53) $92,461.39
Special Pre-Primary[37] July 5, 2011 $105,615.72 $70,615.71 $(82,117.14) $94,114.29
Special Pre-Election[38] April 25, 2011 $82,206.43 $47,592.50 $(24,183.21) $105,615.72
Spring Pre-Election[39] April 15, 2011 $4,215.68 $83,854.10 $(15,147.43) $82,206.43

The following political action committees made donations to Randy Hopper:

  • American Family PAC
  • Centene Corporation PAC
  • Committee to Elect a Republican Senate
  • Wisconsin Insurance Alliance PAC
  • WPSR Employees PAC

Official reports

Recall committees

As of the April 25, 2011 filing, the Committee to Recall Randy Hopper raised $448,325.57 and spent $47,835.57.

Committee to Recall Randy Hopper Campaign Finance Reports (GAB ID No. 600012)
Report Date Filed Beginning Balance Total Contributions (Expenditures) Cash on Hand
Special Pre-Election[40] April 25, 2011 $490.00 $8,182.90 $(8,182.90) $490.00
Spring Pre-Election[41] March 28, 2011 $0.00 $40,142.67 $(39,652.67) $490.00

Professor controversy

Map of Wisconsin Senate District 18

On May 3 Hopper called for the resignation of a University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh professor who encouraged students to sign a recall petition. Hopper also called for an investigation into the in-class political activity of college professors. The issue stemed from a March 7 recording made by a student in one of professor Stephen Richards' classes, in which he introduces students who were there to collect signatures.

The University released a statement saying it "wholly respects the principal of academic freedom, exercised responsibly, in the classroom. Professor Stephen Richards' classroom comments of March 7 clearly crossed the line into inappropriate political activity." UWO Chancellor Richard Wells went on to say that the issue was investigated and action was taken. Unsatisfied, Hopper said, "Quite frankly, nothing short of this professor resigning will be adequate for the students and the parents of UW-Oshkosh."[42]


Conducted June 23-26

August 9, 2011 Recall - District 18 - Daily Kos/PPP Poll[43]
Candidate Party Percent
Jessica King Electiondot.png Democratic 50%
Randy Hopper Ends.png Republican 47%
Undecided 3%

Conducted August 5-7

August 9, 2011 Recall - District 18 - Daily Kos/PPP Poll[44]
Candidate Party Percent
Jessica King Electiondot.png Democratic 48%
Randy Hopper Ends.png Republican 49%
Undecided 3%

Additional reading

Official documents

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


See also

External links


  1. The Northwestern, "Groups across 18th Senate District will rally today, Hopper recall signatures will be filed in Madison," April 7, 2011
  2. Washington Times, "In Wisconsin, target of recall stands by stance on union bill," May 29, 2011
  3. Washington Post, "Recall momentum continues: Dems collect huge number of signatures to recall Randy Hopper," April 7, 2011
  4. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "It's official: Signatures filed in Hopper recall campaign", April 7, 2011
  5. The Northwestern, "Independent state reviews of petitions to recall Republican State Senators Randy Hopper, Luther Olsen are valid," May 9, 2011
  6. Talking Points Memo, "Wis. Elections Staff Recommend Recalls Against Three GOPers," May 20, 2011
  7. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Recall Election Information," retrieved May 23, 2011
  8. FOX 11, "GAB clears way for 3 GOP recall elections," May 23, 2011
  9. FOX 11, "King to challenge Hopper in recall," April 13, 2011
  10. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin Senate recall races tempt Assembly members," April 30, 2011
  11. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin GOP leaders encouraging colleagues to place fake Democrats on recall ballots," June 5, 2011
  12. Daily Journal, "Wisconsin Republican Party encourages spoiler candidates to run in recalls to force primaries," June 6, 2011
  13. Twin Cities, "Wisconsin Republicans accused of dirty tricks in recall elections," June 6, 2011
  14. Washington Post, "GOP allies hatching sleazy dirty tricks in Wisconsin recall wars," July 8, 2011
  15. Washington Post, "Buckstaff flyer," July 8, 2011
  16. WisPolitics, "King Campaign: Statement on Sen. Hopper and GOP continued dirty tricks," July 7, 2011
  17. Fond du Lac Reporter, "Hopper, King meet in candidate forum tonight," July 18, 2011
  18. Post Crescent, "Randy Hopper, Jessica King stick to their positions in debate," July 19, 2011
  19. WisPolitics, "Hopper Campaign: Declares victory in debate," July 19, 2011
  20. WisPolitics, "King Campaign: Jessica King wins debate on issues," July 19, 2011
  21. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "July 12 Primary Election Results District 18," accessed July 11, 2011
  22. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "District 18 Recall Election Results," accessed August 19, 2011
  23. The Northwestern, “Democratic Wisconsin State Senate Recall candidate Jessica King calls on Sen. Randy Hopper to take down campaign ad,” July 24, 2011
  24. PolitiFact, “Wisconsin GOP state Sen. Randy Hopper says Democrat challenger Jessica King voted to increase her pay 63 percent.” July 22, 2011
  25. 25.0 25.1 PolitiFact, “In Wisconsin Senate recall race, Democratic Jessica King says GOP Sen. Randy Hopper ‘didn’t pay taxes,’” July 26, 2011
  26. ‘’Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, “Board sets three more recall elections for July 12,” May 23, 2011
  27. Hopper challenge to recall petition, April 21, 2011
  28. WBAY, "Man Claims Signature was Forged on Recall Petition," May 10, 2011
  29. Wisconsin State Journal, "Recall-targeted GOP senators challenge validity of petitions," June 1, 2011
  30. Superior Telegram, "GOP planning lawsuit over Republican senator recalls," June 8, 2011
  31. Leader-Telegram, "Harsdorf, other GOP senators sue to stop recalls," June 9, 2011
  32. Madison.com, "Recall campaigns ask court to throw out 'meritless' challenges," June 14. 2011
  33. WUWM, "Judges Rules Senate Recalls Can Proceed," July 8, 2011
  34. FDL Reporter, 'State group files campaign finance complaints against 3 recall targets,” June 7, 2011
  35. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN: GAB-2: Friends for Randy Hopper," August 1, 2011
  36. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN: GAB-2: Friends for Randy Hopper," July 5, 2011
  37. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN: GAB-2: Friends for Randy Hopper," July 5, 2011
  38. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN GAB-2: Friends for Randy Hopper", April 25, 2011
  39. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN GAB-2: Friends for Randy Hopper", April 15, 2011
  40. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN GAB-2: Committee to Recall Randy Hopper", April 25, 2011
  41. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: STATE OF WISCONSIN GAB-2: Committee to Recall Randy Hopper", March 28, 2011
  42. The Northwestern, "Republican Sen. Randy Hopper calls for resignation of University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh professor Stephen Richards who encouraged students to sign recall," May 4, 2011
  43. Daily Kos, "WI Recall: New Daily Kos polling shows path to victory," June 28, 2011
  44. Daily Kos, "Wisconsin recall elections: Too close to call," August 8, 2011