After months of campaigning, legal challenges and volunteer efforts on both sides, recalls against six Republican state senators on Tuesday ended with four lawmakers still in office and two removed by challengers. The outcome gives Democrats two more members in the state Senate, but leaves Republicans with a one seat majority.
Overcoming recall opponents were Senators Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), Rob Cowles (R-Allouez), Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls), and Luther Olsen (R-Ripon). Republican state Senators Dan Kapanke (R-La Crosse) and Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac) lost to their Democratic opponents, giving Jessica King the Senate seat in the 18th District and allowing state Representative Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) to move over from the Assembly to represent the 32nd Senate District.
Republican lawmakers were facing recalls over their votes in favor of Governor Walker’s changes to the collective bargaining powers of public employee unions.
Despite falling short of claiming the majority, Senate Democratic Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) says Tuesday’s recalls were a major accomplishment because they took on the GOP in its own territory and “fought them to a draw.” Miller says he’s happy to add two strong Democratic women to their caucus.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) says the outcome shows results mean more than promises, after Republicans balanced the budget and turned a deficit into a surplus. Fitzgerald says it was unfortunate special interests defeated Hopper and Kapanke, who he says “took a bullet for taxpayers” in the state and are “owed a debt of gratitude.”
Following Tuesday’s elections, five state Senators have now successfully overcome recall challenges. Democrat Dave Hansen of Green Bay defeated his recall opponent in July. Democratic Senators Jim Holperin of Conover and Bob Wirch of Pleasant Prairie still face recall elections next Tuesday.