Wisconsin recall fight: What happens next
With the Democratic primaries over, it’s time for the Wisconsin recall elections to really begin.
Eight Republican state senators were targeted for recall elections for voting to end collective bargaining. Eight Democratic state senators face recalls for fleeing the state to avoid that vote. Democrats gathered enough signatures to trigger recall elections against six Republicans; the GOP gathered enough signatures to set elections against three Democrats.
Republicans currently have a 19 to 14 majority in the state Senate. (They also control the House.) If Democrats net three wins in these elections, they will retake the upper chamber.
That would be a huge symbolic blow to Gov. Scott Walker (R) and Republicans nationwide, as well as an opportunity for Democrats to block future GOP-friendly legislation. Republicans have already moved to pass redistricting legislation before the recalls. Unions have poured resources into the fight, hoping to send a message to other state governments around the country.
Last night, six “protest” primary candidates put forward by Republicans to delay the general elections lost in the Democratic primaries to actual Democrats. That means all six Republicans will face a real rival next month.
So what happens next? Here’s the schedule and what to expect:
July 19: There are Republican primaries in two districts and a general election in one.
In the 12th, Lincoln County Board of Supervisors chairman Robert Lussow will face off against Kim Simac for the chance to take on state Sen. Jim Holperin (D). Lussow is more moderate, to the point where some Republicans have accused him of colluding with Holperin to draw votes away from Simac. Founder of the Northwoods Patriots tea party group, Simac has little political experience but led the recall-petition drive against Holperin. Whoever wins will face one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators.
In the 22nd, Kenosha County Board vice chairman Fred Ekornaas will face lawyer Jonathan Steitz in the primary for Democratic state Sen. Robert Wirch’s seat. Ekornaas has more experience and longer ties to the area, but Steitz has raised and spent far more money.
In the 30th district, there is a general election between state Sen. Dave Hansen (D) and wind farm developer David VandeerLeest. The lack of a primary is a lucky break for Democrats. A far more formidable challenger, state Rep. John Nygren, failed to submit enough valid signatures to get on the ballot. VandeerLeest carries a lot of baggage — including an ongoing probe from the Oconto County Sheriff’s Department. Hansen’s seat was seen as a potential GOP pickup, but those odds are much longer with VandeerLeest on the ticket.
Aug. 9: There will be general elections against all six Republican state senators. Dan Kapanke in the 32nd district is seen as the most vulnerable; he faces state Rep. Jennifer Schilling. The 8th district’s Alberta Darling, who is facing state Rep. Sandy Pasch, is also considered in danger because she won with only 50.5 percent in 2008. The 18th’s Randy Hopper had a similarly close race that year, and he’s also suffered bad press over his alleged affair with a Republican staffer. Hopper faces deputy OshKosh Mayor Jessica King.
The 10th district’s Sheila Harsdorf (facing teacher Shelly Moore), the 2nd district’s Robert Cowles (facing former Brown County Executive Nancy Nusbaum) and the 14th district’s Luther Olsen (facing state Rep. Fred Clark) are all considered safer, although all three come from districts won by President Obama in 2008.
Aug. 16: There will be general elections against Democratic state Sens. Holperin and Wirch. Holperin’s district went for President Bush in 2004 by 53 percent, narrowly (53 percent) for Obama in 2008 and hard (57 percent) for Walker in 2010, all signs that Holperin could be in serious danger. Wirch’s district went more strongly for Obama and less strongly for Walker, so while it will be a hard-fought campaign he has less to worry about. Both Holperin and Witch have raised and spent more than their GOP challengers combined.
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