Wisconsin Voters Rebuke Governor
Update: The vote result switched Friday, when a Republican county elections supervisor suddenly discovered thousands of votes she said had gone missing in the initial count. The supervisor said she knew about the error 29 hours before reporting it, first to conservative blogs and talk-radio hosts. This article in Madison's Cap Times explains more.
Wisconsin labor put its candidate, Joanne Kloppenburg, on the state Supreme Court in statewide voting Tuesday, beating David Prosser, a Republican supporter of the governor, by just 204 votes. The upset was a remarkable repudiation of Governor Scott Walker’s attack on workers’ standard of living, though it will be challenged with a recount.
Before Walker unveiled his plan to do away with public employee unions and his budget containing draconian cuts to social services, Kloppenburg was a token Democratic candidate with no chance of success. In the officially nonpartisan primary in February, the incumbent Prosser came in 30 points ahead of her.
But unions latched on to the April 5 Supreme Court race as their first opportunity to demonstrate at the ballot box voters’ displeasure with the policies of Walker and the Republican majority in the legislature. They turned out volunteers not only to tip the court back to a Democratic majority but also as a show of anger and power.
Jim Cavanaugh, head of the South Central Federation of Labor in Madison, called the vote a “referendum on Walker.” He explained, “Prosser’s campaign put out a news release saying that he was a conservative judge and looked forward to being reelected in order to be a ‘complement’ to the new Republican legislature and governor.”
Before the rebellion, a Kloppenburg campaign would have drawn about 30 percent of voters at best, said Dave Poklinkoski, president of a utility workers local in Madison. “Her victory ought to give our enemies pause,” he said.
Two other election victories are also being touted as a shift in the political winds. In Milwaukee County, where Walker was county executive before this year, a Republican was defeated 61 to 39 percent by a Democratic newcomer to politics whose campaign ads connected his opponent to Walker.
And in another county executive race, in conservative Outagamie County, south of Green Bay—home of Joe McCarthy and David Prosser—a 34-year-old Democratic assemblyman was elected. The Republican loser blamed his defeat on Walker.
Democrats have submitted petition signatures to force recall elections of two of the eight Republican state senators they are targeting.
Bill Still Not in Effect
The state Supreme Court—with Prosser still seated—will likely rule on the pending legal challenge to Walker’s “budget repair” bill, which has not taken effect.
Republicans passed the bill, which would strip unions of many of their collective bargaining rights, swiftly and with questionable legality March 9. Dane County District Attorney Ishmael Ozanne is arguing that Republican legislators violated the state’s “open meetings” law by not giving notice of their plan to vote on the bill and by not granting enough public access to the hearing.
Republican lawmakers are declining to testify about their actions, asserting immunity, and the earliest the next hearing will be held is May 23.
The Republican-majority legislators could, of course, simply re-vote on the bill, following the “open meetings” law and dotting all i’s. But they have refused to do so.
To see Labor Notes’ coverage of the revolt in Wisconsin from the present back to its earliest days, click here.