Wisconsin held six of its nine recall elections for the State Senate last evening (one was already held and the other two are next week) and while the Democrats made history by winning two seats the Republicans held onto technical control of the 33-member body by a 17-16 margin. I say “technical” because there are a few independent-minded Republicans (you might refer to them as RINOs) in the State Senate who, given the one-vote margin if it holds up, might start flexing their muscle and use their leverage more often than they did when the margin was 19-14 and at least will temper any legislation coming their way from the state Assembly or governor’s office.
However, the GOP incumbents won four of the races and some very solid margins. The districts themselves lean Republican pretty much. If you survived the Obama landslide of 2008 then it’s a good bet your district is pretty solidly Republican. The Dems’ only picked off the two most vulnerable incumbents, one in a district in western Wisconsin which has been trending Dem for the past decade and the other because the incumbent was scandal-tarred but it wasn’t by a huge margin. The results show the state still pretty divided with Republicans still solidly behind Gov. Scott Walker. If they weren’t, then more would have lost. The Dems’ still plan on recalling Walker next year but without union money and organizers it will be impossible to gather the 540,000 signatures needed and they may wish to spend their money elsewhere instead of continuously losing close races in Wisconsin. Only if a credible candidate comes forwards, say a Russ Feingold or Dave Obey, could a recall of such magnitude get off the ground. And even if the Democrats had won control it may not have lasted for very long anyway. The new redistricting maps for the state Senate and Assembly heavily favor the GOP as you might expect with their control of these legislative bodies, not to mention the governor’s office. Only an Obama landslide in 2012 could possibly give the Dems’ a chance of winning back the legislature. Besides, what sparked these recall elections was the repeal of collective bargaining rights for state employee unions and yet worker’s rights was never a big issue in these campaigns because the hot shot, outside political consultants figured the union people would turn out anyway and they needed to expand their voting arguments to different issues and groups. Yet if taxing and spending were all what these campaigns were about, the recalls would have never have taken place to begin with. What a strange strategy!
The outcome hinged on one race in particular in the Milwaukee area which may well have turned on the events which have taken place in the last few weeks which have a racial tone to them. The Dems’ thought they had a good chance of knocking off incumbent Senator Alberta Darling, who barely won re-election four years ago and whose district had been trending Democratic. But Darling won her race by a solid 54-46 margin over an incumbent state Assemblywoman in Sandra Pasch. Why the different spread this time? Because her district includes the counties of Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee. These three counties are alike in that they are all suburban, next to Milwaukee County and all nearly 99 percent white. The Milwaukee area is the most heavily segregated in the country and it has affected the region’s politics. These counties are some of the most conservative in the state and vote for the party which best represents this (once Democrat, now Republican). But what was once a 60-40 split or 55-45 split in a good Democrat year became 70-30 up to even an 80-20 split since 2008. All the precincts in all three counties went in those margins for Darling. These three counties, because they turnout upwards past 78 percent of the vote, can now offset Milwaukee and Madison’s totals for the Democrats. Indeed, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett became the first Democrat ever to win 60 percent of the Milwaukee County vote and still lost the governor’s election in 2010. It these counties which went heavily enough for Supreme Court Judge David Prosser to help him get past his opponent JoAnne Kloppenburg this past spring (the infamous lost 14,000 votes came in Waukesha County). Once again these three counties frustrated the plans the Leftists.
Did the recent racially motivated attacks outside the State Fair or the Federal Government’s forcing of the Waukesha County suburb of New Berlin to build public housing for working class citizens which might bring in blacks, Asians and Hispanics into the almost all white city having something to do with making what seemed to be a close race into a comfortable win in a backlash? We’ll never know for sure but you don’t have to be a member of the Mensa to see such numbers and percentages and realize such bloc voting in like-minded communities does have its advantages (especially for the GOP to keep in mind). To be fair, there are mostly white communities which are pretty liberal in Milwaukee County (and in other areas across the state). But if the white nats want more like-minded communities they need to find them and move into them.
Just as a personal note, to show how divided the state is, one of the recall races, in the 10th Senate District in northwest Wisconsin, featured two friends, Sen. Shelia Harsdorf and Shelly Moore, running against each other. I went to high school with Moore and Harsdorf I know from my work as a page in the State Assembly while I was college. But that’s what a house divided looks like: brother against brother, child against parent, friend against friend. I’m glad it’s over it, for now.