August 9, 2011 in Nation/World

Wisconsin voters to decide on recalls

Six Republican seats hinge on outcome

MADISON, Wis. – Today brings a series of recall elections unprecedented in the history of the state or nation.

Since 1908, there have been 20 recorded state legislative recall elections held in the United States, according to one recall expert. Wisconsin is in the process of holding nine such elections in a month.

With control of the Wisconsin Senate in the balance, six Republican state senators will face a recall vote today. One Democratic senator has already weathered a recall attempt, and on Aug. 16 two more Democrats will be up for recall.

“Wisconsin has taken a quantum leap in a fast-changing process, in what has been a growing use of the recall” nationally, said Joshua Spivak, who writes the Recall Elections Blog.

There is intense interest – from voters on the street to national political groups – in the elections sparked by lawmakers’ positions on GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s law ending most union bargaining for most public workers.

Tens of millions of dollars are being spent on the recall campaigns.

Fond du Lac City Clerk Sue Strands estimated an high turnout today of 75 percent to 80 percent of registered voters in her area, where Republican state Sen. Randy Hopper faces a challenge from Democrat and former Oshkosh Deputy Mayor Jessica King.

Joe Heim, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, said both Democratic and Republican voters have gotten more engaged as a result of the state’s political climate.

“It’s extremely historical and unprecedented,” Heim said. “(Republicans) woke up a sleeping giant and energized a group of people that had not been … particularly active in politics in recent years.”

John Hogan, manager of Senate Republicans’ recall efforts, acknowledged the implications of the elections and said voters would support GOP senators for helping to cope with the state’s budget problems.

Wisconsin Democrats said that the elections were a reaction to a divisive plan by Walker that he never campaigned on last year and that they had hopes of taking enough seats to win back the Senate.

Republicans control all of state government including the Senate, where they have a 19-14 advantage. That means Democrats would need to win at least three seats today to take back the Senate.

If Democrats took back the state Senate by three or four seats, the two recall elections for Democrats the following week would give Republicans a chance to flip that house again.

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