MADISON, WIS. — Wisconsin Democrats brushed aside their failure to seize control of the state Senate through recall elections, instead insisting Wednesday that voters rejected the Republican vision for the state and the country and vowing to press on with their plan to recall Gov. Scott Walker (R).
Democratic challengers won just two of the six Republican-held Senate seats contested in Tuesday’s elections, yet party officials said those victories exposed the electorate’s anger at Walker and at GOP lawmakers in Wisconsin and elsewhere who have shown little interest in political compromise.
But as the Democratic faithful turn their attention to delivering their potentially pivotal state to President Obama in next year’s election, they may find it hard to maintain the momentum that has fueled their recall efforts. Voters might balk if faced with more of the political turmoil that has engulfed Wisconsin politics and dominated the airwaves since Walker took office in January.
After becoming governor, Walker wasted no time in advancing his conservative agenda. He refused to concede on his signature law stripping public workers of most collective-bargaining rights, even after Senate Democrats fled the state to try to block its passage and angry protesters packed the Capitol for nearly a month.
Walker took a conciliatory tone when asked about the recall election results, saying he thinks voters want the two parties to cooperate more on creating jobs and improving the economy. “People still want us to focus on those two priorities,” he said.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D) said it’s too early to tell where the Walker recall effort might go. Two Democratic state senators face their own recall elections next week.
Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate said the two wins Tuesday would add momentum to a Walker recall campaign.
Wisconsin law requires those seeking a recall to collect 540,208 signatures within 60 days, starting no sooner than November. Wisconsin Democratic activist Sachin Chheda said that ideally, a recall election would coincide with the 2012 general election.
But Reid Magney, a spokesman for the state’s election oversight board, cautioned that several factors, including the time needed to check petition signatures and delays resulting from legal challenges, mean that there is no guarantee the elections would coincide.
Tuesday’s recall elections were closely watched by officials in other states, and afterward there was a hint of relief among some Republicans, who said the results showed that the political environment hasn’t changed much since 2010.
“The dynamic guiding the 2012 political environment is still, first and foremost, the state of the economy,” said Republican strategist Kevin Madden.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who signed pension and benefits legislation in June that also raised worker contributions and curtailed collective bargaining, said he was happy for Walker but didn’t think the votes had national implications.
“Wisconsin is Wisconsin, and New Jersey is New Jersey,” Christie said. “I don’t see a lot of similarities between the two.”