Wisconsin Democrats want to recall eight Republican state senators in upcoming special election and replace them with Democrats who are more responsive to constituents. Fred Clark comes across as very, er, responsive in this audio captured by one woman who hung up on his cold call for the campaign, but whose answering machine kept the line open. As WISGOP reported, Clark wanted to respond immediately to this insult by offering to “smack around” the woman who refused to talk with him (via Jim Hoft):

Rep. Fred Clark (D-Baraboo), running in a recall election against Senator Luther Olsen, was caught on tape last week saying he would like to “smack around” a woman in his district.

The comment was recorded on the home answering machine of Sue and John Stapelman of Baraboo. Clark phoned the family while making campaign calls, and had a short, curt conversation with Sue Stapelman. Stapelman then hung up the phone, but her answering machine was still rolling, and caught Clark saying, “I feel like calling her back and smacking her around.”

John Hogan, director of the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate, said “This disturbing and inappropriate comment gives us an unfortunate glimpse of what Representative Clark is like when he thinks no one is listening. Domestic violence is a devastating problem in our state , and abuse is on the rise. To be able to so freely threaten violence against a woman, even in jest, shows a tremendous lack of character.”

As you’ll recall (pun intended), the effort to unseat the eight Republicans began with the passage of a public-employee union reform bill that ended closed shops, forced collection of union dues, and negotiations for anything but wages for all PEUs except those representing first responders. The constituent outreach from Democrats at that time took the form of hiding out in Illinois and refusing to attend the legislative session. Rather than “smack around” their Republican colleagues in an honest debate, they took their ball and left Wisconsin, costing the state millions as the Senate stalled for weeks.

Democrats then tried to stop the bill in the courts on a technical rather than substantive issue, a situation the Supreme Court will shortly address.  The legislature is not going to wait forever for them to do so, though.  They plan to add the reform to the state budget and pass it under expedited rules to reaffirm their earlier action:

The Legislature will write Gov. Scott Walker’s frozen limits on collective bargaining into the state budget Tuesday if the state Supreme Court hasn’t restored them by then, the leader of the state Assembly said Monday.

As time was running out for the high court to act and the budget showdown loomed, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) and other Republicans said they also would seek to pass the budget bill under so-called extraordinary rules that allow it to be advanced more quickly from one house to the next.

Meanwhile, the marble hallways of the Capitol were patrolled by dozens of State Patrol troopers and Capitol police as the Assembly prepared to take up the budget bill, which would balance a $3 billion hole using deep cuts to schools and local governments in place of new taxes. The state’s teachers union and the Wisconsin AFL-CIO called on members to protest in Madison ahead of Tuesday’s vote, raising the specter of renewed large-scale protests at the Statehouse.

“If need be, we are going to have to pass collective bargaining again,” Fitzgerald said at a Capitol news conference. “My caucus is more solid on that collective bargaining vote than they ever have been.”

The PEU reform will add transit workers to the list of exceptions, to protect $47 million in federal subsidies for transit aid.  That might annoy conservatives, but it takes away an argument that arose earlier this year from Democrats and it whittles down the opposition to the bill, at least somewhat.  But Republicans got more good news about their budget fix, too.  Instead of bringing the state budget to within $31 million of balance, it now will produce a $306 million surplus — without raising property taxes, and while lowering state income taxes.

Republicans won’t mind running on that record.  Democrats will need to smack around a lot of people to get them to forget that kind of success.