Washington depresses me. What’s going on in Wisconsin?

Outside of the awesome 25-foot David Prosser Who Will Choke You balloon, there are recall elections quickly approaching. To catch you up, here’s the schedule.

July 12: Primary elections for 6 GOP recalls
July 19: Two primary elections for Dem recalls, one general election
August 9: General elections for 6 GOP recalls
August 16: General elections for 2 remaining Dem recalls

The reason there is one general election on July 19, with Sen. Dave Hansen (D) squaring off against David VanderLeest, is that the preferred Republican candidate didn’t get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. Therefore, VanderLeest, a tea party activist, was the only remaining candidate in the field, and in that case, Wisconsin moves to an immediate recall general election. It so happens that VanderLeest is a terrible candidate, with a long rap sheet for unpaid court judgments, building code violations, and a misdemeanor conviction in a domestic violence dispute. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which helps Democratic state legislature candidates, has a very tough ad highlighting this activity.

Hansen looks like he’s in good shape to retain his Senate seat.

What about the other races? Chris Bowers reports that Democrats are actually in OK shape in the money race:

Fundraising reports in the six recall campaigns against GOP state senators in Wisconsin are out [...] The short version, which you can see in the chart on the right, is that Democrats have an edge in cash on hand in four of the six campaigns. It’s pretty unusual for challengers to lead incumbents in cash on hand, much less for the majority of challengers to lead, so this is a very strong showing for the Democratic candidates.

What’s particularly impressive is how the Democratic candidates built this advantage. According to a press release from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, the average donation to the six candidates ranged from a low of $19.27 for Nancy Nusbaum (who faces Republican Robert Cowles), to a high of $37.14 for Sandy Pasch (who is up against Republican Alberta Darling). Without Pasch, the highest average donation to a Democratic candidate was $23.99 to Jennifer Shilling. Overall, the six Democrats raised $1,556,000 from about 70,000 donors who gave an average of roughly $22.

So small donors and working people are fueling a cash advantage for the recalls. Of course, the big money won’t come off the sidelines, in the form of Koch-fueled independent expenditure ads, until the general election. Union PACs have raised $4 million already to offset that.

Scott Walker and his allies are trying to make the bogus claim that his anti-union law, now in effect, is working, because a single rural school district out of 424, and concessions that unions already made in negotiations before they were stripped of their rights. It’s not a credible claim, but it will be the main talking point from the right leading into the recall general elections.

The real consequence of the anti-union law is more like this:

As the Madison Capital Times reports, “Besides losing their right to negotiate over the percentage of their paycheck that will go toward health care and retirement, unions also lost the ability to claim work as a ‘union-only’ job, opening the door for private workers and evidently even inmates to step in and take their place.” Inmates are not paid for their work, but may receive time off of their sentences.

The law went into effect last week, and Racine County is already using inmates to do landscaping, painting, and another basic maintenance around the county that was previously done by county workers. The union had successfully sued to stop the country from using prison labor for these jobs last year, but with Walker’s new law, they have no recourse.

Welcome to Scott Walker’s Wisconsin. Prison labor means jobs, jobs, jobs!

Unions filed a new lawsuit to stop the anti-union law, but given the cravenness of David Prosser Who Will Choke You and the state Supreme Court, I don’t see much chance for overturning it. The ballot box is the alternative, for now, and it will take years to actually win back the necessary votes to repeal. It starts with the recalls.