Tomorrow, six recall elections against Republican state Senators will finally happen in Wisconsin, the biggest result so far of a six-month uprising in the state against conservative policies and an assault on worker’s rights. If Standard and Poor’s wasn’t trying to force cuts to entitlements it would be the biggest story in America, and in a way, it still should be. This recall process, and the protests and activism that came before it, carry the seeds of a new progressive/youth/labor alliance that could be a catalyst to not only next year’s elections, but a re-imagining of the Democratic Party.
But it starts with the recalls. Andy Kroll has a good rundown of all six races and the likely outcome tomorrow night. Most polls show Democrats ahead in three races and tied or slightly behind in the other three. If at least three seats flip, Democrats will have taken control of the state Senate. There are two other races against incumbent Democrats on August 16, but the state party claims that they are well ahead in those recalls. While polling for this unusual set of midsummer elections, the most recalls happening at one time in American history, is a bit unpredictable, if anything, I would expect Democrats to outperform them, because of a superior ground game advantage and greater enthusiasm. Just take a look at the erratic attendance for Tea Party Express rallies in the various state Senate districts, compared with the organizing fervor on the Democratic side. In fact, the Tea Party has come unglued in Wisconsin, with Tea Party Nation’s Judson Phillips blaming liberal ideology for killing a billion people.
The two seats that look the most ripe for turnover are District 32, where Sen. Dan Kapanke is almost certain to lose to Rep. Jennifer Shilling, and District 18, where Sen. Randy Hopper will have trouble holding onto his seat against Jessica King. The tipping point seat is in District 14, with Sen. Luther Olsen (R) against Rep. Fred Clark (D). This is why this seat has featured millions in vicious advertising. There was even a spot about Clark being a bad driver.
Two other races are distinct possibilities for Democrats: District 8, with Sen. Alberta Darling against Rep. Sandy Pasch, and District 10, with Sen. Sheila Harsdorf against Shelley Moore. Democrats are less optimistic about District 2, where Sen. Rob Cowles leads former local mayor Nancy Nusbaum. If Cowles comes up a loser on Election Day, it’s likely to be a clean sweep.
Total spending in the recalls could reach as high as $40 million. But on-the-ground organizing, not TV ads where most of the money is going, is probably more likely to yield results in an unusual election like this. Anyway, voters may have picked a side back in February, when Scott Walker unveiled his anti-union bill and protesters filled the streets of Madison along with the Capitol building. While the fight over public employees has receded into the background, it still animates these races.
King is running in Wisconsin’s 18th District, northwest of Milwaukee, in an area dotted with correctional facilities. Department of Corrections employees say they’ve been hit hard by Walker’s policies. That can only help King. John Eveland, a 45-year-old corrections officer who attended Friday’s rally, said he’d watched his bargaining rights erode and financial uncertainty skyrocket under Walker; despite a lifetime of voting Republican, Eveland said he was voting for King. “Somebody’s gotta slow these people down,” he said. “It’s like a steamroller.”
Another CO, 51-year-old Jerry Pflueger, said he feared Walker’s attack on worker rights was a step toward privatizing Wisconsin’s prisons, similar to what Republican Gov. Rick Scott is doing in Florida. He couldn’t believe it. “This has come out of left field,” he said.
Indeed, the relentless nature of Scott Walker and his confreres, and how they pushed forward their extreme agenda, brought us directly to the recalls we will see tomorrow.