Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

2012 District 21 Recall Race Will Be Tight

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A few days ago (May 20, 2012, to be exact), Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel political columnist Craig Gilbert wrote an excellent blog about District 21 — my district, which currently encompasses the city and county of Racine — and about how divided Racine County has been over the past twenty-five to thirty years.  It’s called, “Recall politics is old hat in Racine, where no incumbent is safe.”

Here’s a few words from Gilbert about how unusual District 21 is, even when it comes to the nature of currently fractured Wisconsin politics:

If there’s a battleground within the battleground in Wisconsin’s recall wars, this is it – a political no man’s land where the two parties have spent a quarter-century trading control of the same tenuous turf.

This is the only state Senate district in America whose voters have forced two recall elections.

It’s a district unique in Wisconsin for its volatility and thirst for change. It has changed partisan hands five times in 22 years. It has re-elected its state senators only twice since 1990, and booted them four times, a tally that could rise to five on June 5.

And here’s a few words from former state Senator John Lehman (D-Racine), who’s running against current Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) in the recall race, as quoted by Gilbert:

“It’s a wonderful thing for democracy. It’s very difficult for politicians. You get swept in and out, because it’s such a tight district,” says Democrat John Lehman, who got knocked off by Republican Van Wanggaard in 2010 and is trying to return the favor next month.

And as Gilbert points out in this article, this particular recall comes sixteen years (and one day) after George Petak (R-Racine) was removed via recall over his vote for the Milwaukee Brewers stadium after saying he’d vote “no.”  Voters didn’t like it that Petak went back on his word and recalled him; Petak was the first state Senator removed via recall.  (I wrote about the Petak-Plache recall here last August; Kim Plache, D-Racine, defeated Petak in the June 1996 recall election.)

See, in Racine, we don’t like it when politicians lie.  In fact, we get rather incensed over it.  And we will remove a legislator if we feel he hasn’t done what he said he’d do, which is why Wanggaard has legitimate reasons to worry about his own pending recall race.

Gilbert points out that in Racine, we haven’t been too kindly toward any incumbent of any party for the past twenty years or so.  This may be because incumbents, in general, become less responsive to voters over time, or it may be that Racine residents pay more attention to their state Senators than they do to their Assemblymen (and women) as none of the Racine contingent in the Assembly has ever been recalled.  Whatever the case, Racine voters have recalled a Republican Senator before, which is why this particular state Senate recall race is adjudged the “hottest” race by Gilbert and most political watchers statewide.  (The fact that the polls have been extremely close for months between Wanggaard and Lehman may also have something to do with it, though no current polls have been released in the past three weeks.)

Current Assemblyman Cory Mason (D-Racine) is quoted by Gilbert as saying this about recalls in the Racine area:

State Rep. Cory Mason, a Racine Democrat, says the current recall and the previous one share “a similar sort of visceral anger” among voters.

I definitely agree with Mason.

Gilbert pointed out a voter who really dislikes it that Wanggaard and Governor Scott Walker (R) are being recalled, and a voter who highly dislikes it that Walker and Wanggaard are in there, which shows the amount of division in this area.  (Read the blog to see these two viewpoints.)  Then he quoted this gentleman:

“Everybody is up in arms. Everybody is fighting against each other. Why? Because of one idiot?” said John Amaya. “It’s hot. It could get hotter on the 5th. It’s going to get real hot. I promise to God once (Walker) is out, I’ll go to church for the rest of my life.”  (Emphasis added by Barb Caffrey)

The reason I have reproduced (and emphasized) this particular quote is that I’ve heard variants of it for the past several months.  Many people — and I do mean many, of all political parties and persuasions — have said that if Walker is voted out, they will go to church on a regular basis.  I’ve never before seen this particular response, even though I have lived in other states and have gone through at least one other recall race (the recall of Gov. Gray Davis, D-California, in the early 2000s), but it’s an incredibly popular one these days in Southeastern Wisconsin.

One more important thought from Rep. Mason (as quoted by Gilbert):

Democratic Rep. Mason thinks the Petak race neutralizes the Republican argument that recalls should be reserved for official misconduct, not policy disputes.

“I don’t think that (notion) plays as well in this county. We have people around here who are familiar with and willing to invoke their right to recall if they feel misled,” he said.

Mason is exactly right.  I feel misled by the Republicans in general and Wanggaard in particular, which is why I signed the various recall petitions.   But signing the petitions is not enough; it’s now time to vote the incumbents (Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, Wanggaard) back out.  This is why I’m looking forward to voting against Wanggaard, et. al., on June 5, 2012.

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Written by Barb Caffrey

May 23, 2012 at 11:30 pm

2 Responses

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  1. […] Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writer Craig Gilbert’s analysis (a very, very good analysis) here. Share this:TwitterFacebookMoreLinkedInDiggEmailStumbleUponLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  2. […] Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writer Craig Gilbert’s analysis (a very, very good analysis) here. Share this:TwitterFacebookMoreLinkedInDiggEmailStumbleUponLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]


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