Well, well, well. It turns out that the majority of Wisconsin voters don’t sympathize much with the plight of poor, downtrodden … government workers. More than a year after public-employee unions in Wisconsin and the labor movement nationwide tried to make an example of Republicans in Wisconsin for enacting collective-bargaining reforms — which have save the state $1 billion already — they have won exactly one seat in the state Senate, and potentially a recount in another:
All eyes Wednesday will be on the 21st District. Results posted early Wednesday showed Lehman with 36,255 votes to 35,476 for Wanggaard with 100% of precincts reporting. The margin of 779 could bring a recount.
In a statement, Senate Democratic Leader Mark Miller said:
“Tonight, Wisconsinites across the 21st Senate District elected a new State Senator. By electing a Democratic Senate, the people of Wisconsin have opened the door to responsible dialogue and if needed provide a bulwark against continued political extremism, and restored checks and balances to the Wisconsin Legislature. I look forward to working again with Senator-elect Lehman in the State Senate in the coming months.”
Wanggaard’s campaign manager Justin Phillips issued his own statement, hinting at a recount:
“We owe it to all of Senator Wanggaard’s supporters and the voters of Wisconsin to thoroughly examine the election and its results and act accordingly once we have all of the information.”
The results bring an end – for now – to recall elections of lawmakers after the November 2010 election of Gov. Scott Walker and the firestorm that followed. Tuesday’s results follow a series of recall elections in 2011 when Democrats picked up two seats in recalls involving nine senators, cutting into the Republican’s majority. The majority slipped to a tie after Galloway’s resignation.
If Lehman’s win holds, Democrats assume a 17-16 majority, at least until next November’s elections. It’s unknown whether the Senate will convene in a special session before then.
That’s correct — the Wisconsin Senate will be out of session until 2013. In November, 16 of the 33 seats will be up for grabs, and thanks to the redistricting that will be in place for the first time in that election, Republicans are supposed to pick up at least two seats. The unions spent millions of dollars and over a year’s worth of effort to get a temporary one-seat majority in a chamber that will never meet in session. And that’s assuming that their lone win from last night holds up in a recount. Congratulations, Big Labor!
What of all the other races? Unions and Democrats contested ten state Senate races over the past year, one Supreme Court position, and the Governor and Lt. Governor offices. They ended up farther back than when they started. Scott Walker improved his 2010 performance by 125,000 votes, and Barrett lost by a bigger percentage than in 2010. Rebecca Kleefisch trounced her opponent, who hadn’t even been on record as voting until 2008.
This led to an inevitable amount of whining afterward about Democrats being outspent 7-1, but that only looks at the spending from the campaigns, and only in the gubernatorial election. Unions dropped millions into Wisconsin in an effort to punish politicians who had the temerity to impose some fiscal discipline on the government class. They calculated that voters would find bureaucrats more sympathetic than the taxpayers getting fleeced by the WEAC Trust and the PEUs. They bet wrong.
Politico calls them the biggest loser, and for good reason. The unions put on a great demonstration of their impotence over the last year and a half:
Big Labor went all in on the Wisconsin recall — putting millions of dollars, months of organizing and its reputation as a political superpower on the line to defeat GOP Gov. Scott Walker.
Then they got trounced on Election Day.
Walker’s decisive victory over Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on Tuesday has demonstrated the vulnerability of a long-formidable movement whose ranks are thinning across the country. The failed recall attempt has energized organized labor’s foes and emboldened lawmakers to pick fights with unions in other states. And it has underscored the fact that unions — a potent source of political power and dollars for Democrats — aren’t going to be the left’s counter to conservative groups’ outside cash in November.
They never should have picked this fight in the first place. Big Labor’s David Prosser/JoAnn Kloppenburg failure should have warned them to drop the recall effort against Walker and Kleefisch and instead used the time to keep the threat of their action in reserve. Instead, they played their card, and it turned out to be a deuce in a do-over.
Update: It was ten state Senate races, not eight, as Steve Eggleston reminds me. In the comments, Steve notes that the margin in that close loss will be about 1% of the vote, likely too wide for a recount to matter.