Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for August 17th, 2011

Recalls, part 3 (the end, for now) — Wirch and Holperin Retain their Seats

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Folks, the Wisconsin “recall summer” came to an end last night, with incumbent Democratic Senators Bob Wirch and Jim Holperin** retaining their seats, both in comfortable fashion.  These two recall elections were the last of nine recalls that were scheduled between July and August, and the final standings were that seven incumbents won — three Democratic incumbents (all three of them; the third was Dave Hansen, who crushed his opponent on July 19) and four Republican incumbents — and two challengers won, Democratic Assemblywoman Jennifer Shilling in Lacrosse and Oshkosh’s former deputy mayor Jessica King, also a Democrat.

That means that none of the “Wisconsin 14” Democrats lost their seats over their actions of leaving the state in February in order to protest Governor Scott Walker’s “budget repair bill” which attempted to strip public employee union members of their rights.   Two of the six Republicans who were recalled for voting in lockstep with Scott Walker and the Fitzgerald Brothers (Jeff, the Speaker of the Assembly, and his brother Scott, Senate Majority leader) regarding the “budget repair bill” and many other controversial issues, including taking $800 million out of Wisconsin’s public education budget, ended up losing their seats (the ousted Republicans being Dan Kapanke of LaCrosse and Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac).

Overall, what the recall season proved is that an incumbent Senator on either side, in general, has a serious edge over a challenger regardless of the nature of the dispute that has brought him (or her) to be recalled and have to stand for election once again.  The recall summer has also proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Wisconsin remains a 50/50 state — a state that neither Democrats nor Republicans can say solidly is behind their policies — which you’d think would make Wisconsin stronger rather than weaker in the days and weeks to come.

However, the reason I say that the recalls have ended “for now” is because I’ll be really astonished if we don’t see more recalls at the first of the year.  The freshmen Republican Senators are eligible to be recalled as of January 3, 2012, as is Governor Scott Walker, and it looks more likely than not that Walker, and several Republican Senators who followed the party line, including my own Van Wanggaard of Racine, will be recalled.  Further, there are some members of the Democratic “Wisconsin 14” who can be recalled, including the high-profile Senators Chris Larson of Milwaukee and Jon Erpenbach of Middleton — neither one of these Senators would be likely to get voted out, but the Republicans may well be able to get the signatures needed to force a recall election for all I know.  (Note that the two newest members of the Wisconsin state Senate, King and Shilling, are not eligible to be recalled.  They must, however, defend their seats in November of 2012, so they’ll have just over a year to prove their worth to their constituents.)

What adds fuel to the fire here is the new, gerrymandered map of political districts, which will make three Senate seats — including Alberta Darling’s district 8 and Wanggaard’s district 21 — much more safely “Republican.”  Those new boundaries are expected to kick in for the November ’12 elections, which is why getting Wanggaard out is likely to happen sooner rather than later as his current constituents want him out, partly because he voted for that horrible map which will make his district part rural Racine county and part rural Kenosha county, excluding much of the city of Racine.  Note that the “new” boundaries of district 21 would include Senator Bob Wirch’s house — yes, Wirch was “drawn out” of his own, home district 22 (which right now is the city of Kenosha, Kenosha County, and a little bit of Racine County) — so it’s possible Wanggaard might get recalled anyway no matter who his constituents are, as Wirch is extremely popular in Kenosha (city and county, both) and would be as likely to knock Wanggaard out of office as anyone, should he choose to do so.  (Note that Wirch’s term of office also ends in November ’12; the only way he could hold his seat and keep his home is to have Wanggaard recalled, then challenge him for the seat.  But it’s more likely Wirch will move to the “new boundaries” of district 22 than do that, providing the law holds up in court.)

The map is currently being litigated in Federal court by several former Democratic legislators, and may end up getting overturned.  There’s a lot of stupid, petty political crap in there like chopping up the city of Milwaukee and putting it with four different districts (rather than the two it, mostly, has now) in order to weaken the urban influence, which is just as bad as putting the cities of Kenosha and Racine in one district (district 22) while putting the counties of Kenosha and Racine in another (district 21), but all of that may not actually violate any federal laws — as I’m not a lawyer, I cannot judge the merits of the lawsuit.

Because I can’t plan on the lawsuit overturning the gerrymandering — nor can any other political activist — my current plan is to keep working with the folks I know who want Wanggaard out, and get him recalled ASAP right along with Walker.  That way, the people who voted Wanggaard in will still have a chance to get him out if they indeed wish to do so rather than many of them being forced into the “new” version of district 22 as the current, revamped map has it.

So as I said, the recalls are over — for now.  But there’s still much to be done.

As Ed Schultz says on his MSNBC show, “Let’s get to work.”


** Jim Holperin is the only legislator in Wisconsin history to survive two recall elections.  He was recalled in 1993 as an Assemblyman, then won his race and was retained.  This year, Holperin was recalled as a Senator, and was once again retained.  So he’s either really good at what he does, really lucky — or, perhaps, both.