Wisconsin Senate Recall Elections – Round 2

posted at 6:45 pm on July 19, 2011 by Steve Eggleston

Today is the second round of four in the elections of Wisconsin’s Recall Madness, and the first where things actually matter. In the 12th Senate District in northeast Wisconsin and in the 22nd Senate District in Kenosha County, there are rather well-contested Republican primaries, while in the 30th Senate District along the west shore of Green Bay, the election is the general election.

Because Assemblyman John Nygren (R-Marinette) inexplicably left himself with a thin enough margin on his nomination papers that the Democrat Party of Wisconsin and the Government Accountability Board were able to invalidate enough signatures to keep him off the ballot, the incumbent Democrat, Dave Hansen (Green Bay), is going up against the person who organized the recall effort against him, David VanderLeest to decide whether Hansen gets to continue to run away when bills his union paymasters don’t like are scheduled to come up to the Senate floor. To say that VanderLeest is not an ideal candidate is a vast understatement – he has a rather extensive court record that he chose to make part of his poorly-designed campaign website. His lack-of-fundraising looked a lot like the lack-of-effort from the “protest” candidates the Republican Party of Wisconsin ran in the Democrat primaries last week, as he raised as of the last “late contribution” report on 7/12 $6,000 (which has to go up against $243,000 that Hansen had on hand as of July 4). A DailyKos/PPP poll had Hansen up 62%-34%. However, I do note that all three Assembly districts that make up the 30th Senate District are represented by Republicans, and VanderLeest’s group did manage to get 15,540 signatures to force the recall election.

Meanwhile, in the 12th Senate District, recall organizer Kim Simac and Lincoln County board chairman Robert Lussow (sorry, no campaign website) are vying for the chance to face incumbent Democrat Jim Holperin (Conover). In the 22nd Senate District, Kenosha County board vice-chair (and former Kenosha County sheriff) Fred Ekornaas and businessman Jonathan Steitz are vying for the chance to face incumbent Democrat Robert Wirch (Pleasant Prairie).

There are some interesting party dynamics in both primaries. According to Ballotpedia, which cites a Wausau Daily Herald article that is no longer available at the Ballotedia-supplied link, the Lincoln County Republican Party endorsed Simac over Lussow as Lussow appears to not be a member of the Lincoln County Republican Party, while Simac, who founded Northwoods Patriots, is active in several local GOP groups. Down in Kenosha, Ekornass, who was elected as a Democrat sheriff in the 1980s (side note; sheriff is a partisan office in Wisconsin, while county board supervisor is not), has had a Reagan-esque change of political affiliation and indeed his campaign website is linked to by the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate.

What to look for tonight

First things first – the Government Accountability Board will once again not be providing either election-night or post-election unofficial results. As is the custom in Wisconsin elections, the Associated Press (the proximate source of the Supreme Court numbers snafu) will provide aggregated unofficial results from the county clerks, while some county clerks will provide election-night numbers online.

With the massive GOP screw-up in the 30th, the punditry has written off any chance to replace Dave Hansen. It has become an “expectations” game on how big a margin Hansen will run up, much like the “primaries” last week in the 6 districts currently represented by Republicans were. Since these districts are on the same election cycle as the Presidential race, and this is a mid-summer special election cycle, the normal general-election turnout model does not apply.

The DailyKos/PPP poll provides a benchmark in the 30th that is remarkably similar to the informal one Kevin Binversie set for last week’s primaries, while the number of recall signatures in the 12th (19,255) and the 22nd (17,138) provide benchmarks in the primaries. If Hansen fails to get 60%, and the number of voters in the 12th and 22nd are significantly greater than those who signed recall petitions, the Democrats are in trouble. By contrast, if Hansen gets above 65% and the number of voters in the 12th and 22nd are significantly less than those who signed recall petitions, the GOP is in trouble.

Quick flashback to last week

I briefly mentioned Kevin Binversie’s benchmark for last week. He figured that, in districts where the DPW-endorsed candidate didn’t get 65% of the vote, the Democrats were in trouble. The unofficial results (from the AP via Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) showed Shelly Moore in the 10th (currently represented by Shelia Harsdorf) and Sandy Pasch in the 8th (currently reprsented by Alberta Darling) fell short of that mark with 54.6% and 64.6% of the vote respectively and Nancy Nusbaum in the 2nd (currently represented by Robert Cowles) barely clearing it with 65.2%. Notably, the St. Croix County Republican Party, possibly in response to a NetRoots “road trip” volunteer effort for Moore a couple weeks ago, launched a last-minute e-mail and phone campaign to get people in that county to vote for the “protest” candidate, Isaac Weix. In the other 3 districts, Fred Clark in the 14th (currently represented by Luther Olsen), Jessica King in the 18th (currently represented by Randy Hopper) and Jennifer Shilling in the 32nd (currently represented by Dan Kapanke) easily cleared the 65% bar with, respectively, 67%, 69% and 70%.

In terms of turnout versus recall petition signage, however, most of the Democrat field did worse than expected. Nusbaum got barely 59% of those who signed recall petitions to vote for her, and Clark didn’t quite get to 68% of recall signers. Moore, at 82% and King, at 85% got closer to everybody who signed the petition, and Pasch almost reached 98%. Shilling was the outlier of this group, proving that Kapanke is essentially a ghost Senator voting with nearly 117% of those who signed petitions to recall him voting for her in the primary.

What next?

The MacIver News Service reported last week that labor groups have already poured over $6 million into the recall efforts. There are scattered reports that groups with ties to the Democrats are planning on spending up to $25 million to try to net at least three Senate seats and control of “one-half of one-third” of state government. That is far more than what was spent by all sides on the statewide Supreme Court race a few months ago and, if the back of the notebook serves, roughly what each side spent on the gubernatorial and US Senate race combined last year.

I’ve already linked to the challengers to the Democrats who have campaign websites, as well as the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate, which has links to the campaign websites of the 6 incumbents. It is effectively too late to help VanderLeest, but the door is open to donate to the 6 Republican incumbents, the 2 Republican challengers who win today, and the committee. There are campaign limits to all that – one can only donate $1,000 to a Senate candidate per election cycle (no, this does not reset between the primary and the general election) and a grand total of $10,000 per calendar year to all political and campaign committees in Wisconsin. I will point out, however, that any money that went to finance a recall group or a candidate in the course of fighting the efforts of a recall group, as well as money that went to either candidate in the recently-concluded Supreme Court race for the recount, does NOT count toward these limits.

I’m sure a lot of you have received e-mails from various national groups asking for money to help out because I have a virtual stack of them in my inbox. That is another avenue, though if you’re wealthy enough to have to consider donating to a national group for this purpose, you’re also smart enough to consult an actual election-law lawyer on whether that is subject to the $10,000 limit.

I blog over at No Runny Eggs, and am on Twitter @steveegg

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There are scattered reports that groups with ties to the Democrats are planning on spending up to $25 million to try to net at least three Senate seats and control of “one-half of one-third” of state government.

It costs a lot of mullah to unbalance the recently balanced budget.

Electrongod on July 19, 2011 at 7:07 PM

Sorry Steve: one great O/T:

Matthews just got his @ss handed to him by a freshman congressman, this is how to talk to Chris Matthews folks.

Rovin on July 19, 2011 at 7:16 PM

There are scattered reports that groups with ties to the Democrats are planning on spending up to $25 million to try to net at least three Senate seats and control of “one-half of one-third” of state government.

Your laundered tax dollars…hard at work…

Jesus H. Christ……

BigWyo on July 19, 2011 at 7:20 PM

Sorry Steve: one great O/T:

Matthews just got his @ss handed to him by a freshman congressman, this is how to talk to Chris Matthews folks.

Rovin on July 19, 2011 at 7:16 PM

Whoever has the Quotes of the Day while AP is on vacation, please pick up Rovin’s courtesy phone.

Steve Eggleston on July 19, 2011 at 7:52 PM

Hansen will win. This one isn’t going to turn out well.

wi farmgirl on July 19, 2011 at 8:45 PM

An earlier take via WisPolitics on turnout – hopping in the 30th, slow in the 12th and 22nd.

BTW, the polls closed 15 minutes ago.

Steve Eggleston on July 19, 2011 at 9:14 PM

I need a flow chart. Gosh, I’m way too visual.

SouthernGent on July 19, 2011 at 9:48 PM

This is not turning out well. With most of Brown County reported and over 60% of the total vote in, Dave Hansen is whipping David VanderLeest 13,869-6,328 (with 204 write-ins), and the race has been called. In fact, Hansen is getting nearly 88% of the vote total Tom Barrett did in the gubernatorial election.

Turnout in the 12th and 22nd suggests that roughly the same number of voters showed up as signed recall petitions. With 30% in in the 12th, Kim Simac is up on Robert Lussow 3,232-2,318. With 29% in in the 22nd, Jonathan Steitz is up on Fred Ekornass 3,133-1,825.

Steve Eggleston on July 19, 2011 at 10:01 PM

WTMJ-AM declared Steitz the primary winner in the 22nd. He moves on to the general election on August 16 against Fleebagger Dem Robert Wirch.

Steve Eggleston on July 19, 2011 at 10:13 PM

To me, my only interest, of all of the recalled senators in this debacle, which are projected to lose the overall recall election? Since we have no idea who these primary people are, I really am not plugged in why it matters which ones win and which ones don’t win this round of balloting.

karenhasfreedom on July 19, 2011 at 10:33 PM

To me, my only interest, of all of the recalled senators in this debacle, which are projected to lose the overall recall election? Since we have no idea who these primary people are, I really am not plugged in why it matters which ones win and which ones don’t win this round of balloting.

karenhasfreedom on July 19, 2011 at 10:33 PM

All those elections that really matter happen next month.
In order for the Democrats to get the Senate, they need to get a net gain of 3 seats out of the recalls of 6 Republicans and now 2 Democrats.

The “ghost senators voting” are Dan Kapanke (R-La Crosse) and Jim Holperin (D-Conover) – they represent districts that are really strongholds of the other party. There are two other senators, Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac) and Robert Wirch (D-Pleasant Prairie) who are significantly vulnerable.

What is troubling is the turnout the Democrats had in the 30th Senate District – I certainly did not expect Hansen to be able to pull in over 85% of the vote the standard-bearer Tom Barrett did in the gubernatorial election last November.

Steve Eggleston on July 19, 2011 at 10:49 PM

The AP has declared Kim Simac the winner in the 12th Senate District. She will go on to face Jim Holperin on August 19.

Steve Eggleston on July 19, 2011 at 10:53 PM

I’m not sure if the people in Wisconsin are aware of how important this election is, but the rest of us, outside of Wisconsin do.

If the Republicans, who cast brave votes, are removed from office, the chances of any politician, anywhere, making a courages vote again are deminished greatly. Politicians on both sides are are watching this carefully. If the Democrats get their butts handed to them, they will have to slow down on the thug tactics they used in Wisconsin. If they win, I expect to see much more thuggery everywhere.

Vote Republican and only be called a racist one more time.

bflat879 on July 19, 2011 at 11:27 PM

Matthews just got his @ss handed to him by a freshman congressman, this is how to talk to Chris Matthews folks.

Rovin on July 19, 2011 at 7:16 PM

Are you talking about the freshman congressman who NEVER answered any question he was asked? I saw that interview. The basic question was where is your plan … his answer of course in his child like way was where is Obama’s plan? Yeah, he really handed it to Matthews. Translation, our non-plan is just as shitty as Obama’s non-plan … such a low bar.

Monkei on July 20, 2011 at 6:41 AM