Wisconsin Democrats on Tuesday rolled out their line-up for another front in the massive wave of state recalls: Three candidates for the state Senate. In fact, control of the chamber will be up for grabs in recalls for the second time, once state election officials finish the ongoing process of reviewing and certifying the signatures.
Last month, Democrats turned in over a million signatures to trigger a recall against Republican Gov. Scott Walker — nearly twice the 540,208, or 25 percent of the total votes in the previous election for governor, needed to trigger a new election. But also included were signatures against Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, and four state Senators.
However, recalls in Wisconsin do not feature any direct up-or-down vote on the incumbent, but instead effectively take the form of a special election in which the incumbent and a challenger are fighting it out to serve the rest of the term. Thus Tuesday’s state Senate campaign launch.
Three of the senators were officially targeted by the state party in swing seats that the GOP picked up in the 2010 wave, while the fourth was state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, against whom local anti-Walker organizers took the extra initiative.
Assistant state Assembly Minority Leader Donna Seidel will challenge Republican state Sen. Pam Galloway. In 2010, Galloway won by a five-point margin in the traditionally Democratic Wausau district, defeating the incumbent state Senate Majority Leader.
Former state Rep. Kristen Dexter, who lost her Eau Claire seat by half a point in 2010, will challenge Republican state Sen. Terry Moulton, who won his overlapping Senate seat by 8.5 points over a Democratic incumbent.
And former state Sen. John Lehman, who in 2010 lost by five points to Republican Van Wanggaard, will be seeking a rematch in Racine.
The state last year achieved national fame (or infamy), for Walker’s legislation stripping public employee unions of most collective bargaining rights — and the waves of protests that filled the state Capitol and other locations, followed by a summer of state Senate recall campaigns that attracted tens of millions of dollars in political spending.
Wisconsin Democrats, faced with a 19-14 Republican majority in the state Senate, attempted to mount a backlash against Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-public employee union legislation, by recalling their way to a majority. However, they were hampered by the fact that the only recall-eligible districts were ones where the incumbent had won their terms in 2008, even during that year’s Democratic wave.
In the end, Democrats were able to pick up two seats, just short of the magic number of three, for a narrow 17-16 Republican majority. Out of the recall campaigns that were waged by both parties, four incumbent Republicans and three Democrats retained their seats, while two Republicans lost to Democratic challengers.