The seemingly endless round of recalls targeting Wisconsin politicians came to a dramatic finish this year, as opponents of Governor Scott Walker followed through on their promise to launch a campaign to recall him from office.
Following passage of his bill to remove collective bargaining for most public employees in 2011, opponents of Governor Walker started the drive to remove him from office in November of last year. In January, they turned in over 900,000 signatures to force an election. Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and four GOP state senators were also the target of recalls.
Governor Walker seemed optimistic about his chances of surviving an election. Shortly after the petitions were filed, Walker said he believed voters would look at his record of balancing the budget without raising taxes and making cuts to core services, and would recognize that he did what he said he was going to do.
Following months of petition reviews, legal challenges, and a four-way Democratic primary, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett emerged as the Democratic candidate, setting up a rematch of the 2010 election. Barrett promised to “end the civil war in Wisconsin.”
The election was on June 5th, with both sides confident they would come out the winner. But it only took about two hours before Mayor Barrett conceded the race, and Governor Walker claimed victory by a margin of about 172,000 votes. On the night of the election, Walker said his win told the world that “voters really do want leaders who make the tough decisions.”
While Democrats failed to remove the governor and lieutenant governor from office, they did succeed in winning back control of the state Senate when Democrat John Lehman ousted incumbent Senator Van Wangaard. The victory was short-lived though, as Democrats lost that majority again after the November elections.
AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:40)