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September 2, 2014

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Walker survives recall election in Wisconsin

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Morry Gash / AP

Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker casts his ballot Tuesday, June 5, 2012, in Wauwatosa, Wis. Walker faces Democratic challenger Tom Barrett in a special recall election.

Updated Tuesday, June 5, 2012 | 7:26 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker beat back a recall challenge Tuesday, winning both the right to finish his term and a voter endorsement of his strategy to curb state spending, which included the explosive measure that eliminated union rights for most public workers.

The rising Republican star becomes the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall attempt with his defeat of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and the union leaders who rallied for months against his agenda.

With 37 percent of precincts reporting, Walker was ahead 59 percent to Barrett's 40 percent, according to early returns tabulated by the Associated Press.

A Barrett spokesman said the campaign was not conceding, citing ongoing voting in Milwaukee, Madison and Racine.

"We feel very confident when those come in, Tom Barrett is going to win," Phil Walzak said.

Democrats and organized labor spent millions to oust Walker, but found themselves hopelessly outspent by Republicans from across the country who donated record-setting sums to Walker. Republicans hope the victory carries over into November and that their get-out-the-vote effort can help Mitt Romney become the first GOP nominee to carry the state since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

The recall was a rematch of the 2010 governor's race. Throughout the campaign, Walker maintained his policies set the state on the right economic track. Defeat, he said, would keep other politicians from undertaking such bold moves in the future.

"We're headed in the right direction," Walker said many times. "We're turning things around. We're moving Wisconsin forward."

Barrett repeatedly accused Walker of neglecting the needs of the state in the interests of furthering his own political career by making Wisconsin "the tea party capital of the country." He said Walker had instigated a political civil war in Wisconsin that could be quelled only by a change in leadership.

"I will end this civil war," Barrett promised in a debate. "That is something the people of this state want."

Walker ascended into the national spotlight last year when he surprised the state and unveiled plans to plug a $3.6 billion budget shortfall in part by taking away the union rights of most public workers and requiring them to pay more for their health insurance and pension benefits. It was one of his first moves in office.

Democrats and labor leaders saw it as a political tactic designed to gut the power of his political opposition. State Senate Democrats left Wisconsin for three weeks in a sort of filibuster, as tens of thousands of teachers, state workers and others rallied at the Capitol in protest.

But the tea-party supported fiscal conservative remained steadfast: Walker believed his plan would help him control the state budget, and his opponents could not stop Republicans who control the state Legislature from approving his plans.

Walker went on to sign into law several other measures that fueled calls for a recall, including repealing a law giving discrimination victims more ways to sue for damages, making deep cuts to public schools and higher education, and requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls.

Both sides mobilized thousands of people and millions of dollars to influence voters, whom polls showed were more divided than ever. Signs calling for Walker's removal and those supporting the 44-year-old son of a minister dotted the state's landscape all spring at a time normally devoid of political contests.

Turnout was strong across the state with few problems reported as some voters waited in line to cast their ballots.

"Typically we wait until 5 in the afternoon, but we were chomping at the bit to just get it over and done with because I think it has been an unjust campaign waged against the governor," said Jeff Naunheim, a warranty analyst from St. Francis who voted for Walker first thing Tuesday.

Naunheim said the recall was a waste of money.

"I think the Wisconsin voters voted in 2010 to vote Walker in," he said. "I don't think he did anything illegal."

Barrett supporter Lisa Switzer of Sun Prairie said Walker went too far.

"Even if it doesn't turn out the way we want it to, it proves a point," said Switzer, an occupational therapist and single mother on BadgerCare, the state's health insurance program for the working poor. "People in Wisconsin aren't just going to stand by and let a governor take over the state and cut social services."

More than $66 million was spent on the race as of May 21, making it easily the most expensive in Wisconsin history. That money was spent on an all-out barrage of television ads, direct mail, automated calls and other advertising that permeated the state for months.

Walker used the recall to raise millions from conservative donors and bolster his own political fame in the face of the fight. National GOP groups, including Americans for Prosperity and the Republican Governors Association, poured money into the contest.

Unions got behind the recall drive, which started with the collection of more than 900,000 signatures over two months to force the vote. Barrett defeated the union-favored candidate in the Democratic primary in May and then tried to use that to his advantage, while also courting union support. He pledged to call a special legislative session to restore the collective bargaining rights Walker took away.

Also Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and three Republican state senators also faced recall elections, and a fourth open Senate seat was also to be filled. Democrats hoped to win at least one of the Senate seats, which would give them a majority at least through the end of the year.

The recall also focused as much on his record creating jobs as on the divisive union proposal. Walker promised in 2010 to create 250,000 jobs over four years as governor, and just how many jobs were created under Walker was a major point of contention. Walker relied on new data showing the state added about 23,000 jobs in 2011, while a different survey that Barrett favored found the state had lost about 34,000.

Walker expressed no remorse during the campaign, saying he was sticking with his convictions. "I'm not afraid to lose," he said during a May interview with The Associated Press. "I plan to win, I'm running to win, but I'm not afraid to lose to do the right thing."

But that doesn't mean the public will see a changed Walker after the recall.

"I still think people elected me before in November 2010 and they'll elect me again because they want me to fix things," Walker said in the interview. "They want me to keep the focus and attention on fixing things. We're just going to make sure we've got a more comprehensive and inclusive process to get there."

Associated Press writers Gretchen Ehlke and Marilynn Marchione in Milwaukee, Todd Richmond in Sun Prairie, and Carrie Antlfinger in St. Francis contributed to this report.

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  1. TEA- politics should not about winning and losing, it should be about making good policy.

    Elections should not be a war... It is a contest. By turning it into a war, we ARE risking our democracy. There are good ideas from liberals, there are good ideas from conservatives. If you want to live in a place where elections are wars, move to Venezuela.

  2. "Public sector unions have reached their high water mark. Let the cleanup begin as the red ink recedes."

    Bill Frezza - Forbes

    I love it!

  3. Really, TEA? You forgot the 2003 recall of Gray Davis in California and the recount of the 2010 Minnesota Governors election. Both were done by conservatives.

    And Al Franken won that election fair and square. He was ahead once all the absentee and provisional votes were counted, then recounted. Sour grapes.

  4. I'm trying to understand this. If the Republicans win because they spent more money it is evil. Yet Reid *and* Angle both raised more money than what was spent on this recall, with both receiving more than 95% of their money from out-of-state.

    Does that mean that Reid is evil? (I know that most people here will say that Angle is evil for doing so.)

  5. boftx,
    You have failed to understand the point entirely. It was not that out of state money was evil. No one has made that argument. It was that spending by billionaires corrupts democracy and buys candidates. Scott Walker is not his own agent, he is just a puppet who's strings are pulled by wealthy Gatsbys.

  6. The latest numbers I see as I post this show Walker with 53% of the vote. If one remembers that Obama received about the same percentage in 2008 then one has to think that the Democrats are in for a fight this November.

  7. This is a good example the Citizens United must be overturned and or constitutional amendment be done. Money does not equal free speech.

  8. Will be interesting to see what Walker takes away next..It will happen.

  9. Welcome to the banana republic of Wisconsin.

  10. TEA,
    Do you think Enron may have had something to do with that energy crisis in California???
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2005/...

    "On one tape, an Enron official named Bill tells an employee called Rich at a Las Vegas power plant to take the plant offline on a confected excuse. The conversation took place on January 17 2001, in the last days of the Clinton administration, as blackouts were rolling across California, cutting off electricity to more than one million people, and after the energy secretary, Bill Richardson, had ordered generators across the west to direct their output to the troubled state.

    "Ah, we want you guys to get a little creative, and come up with a reason to go down," Bill says on the tape. "Anything you want to do over there? Any cleaning, anything like that?"

    "OK, so we're just comin' down for some maintenance, like a forced outage type thing?" Rich replies, according to transcripts published yesterday. "I think that's a good plan, Rich," Bill says. "... I knew I could count on you."

    A spokeswoman for Enron, which is still going through bankruptcy proceedings, refused to comment."

  11. Wisconsin voters just took the state back from the crazies in Madison and, as a former Wisconsinite, I applaud them. It almost, not quite though, makes me nostalgic for the Badger State. I put in 50 years with those nuts in Madison, the "Berkley of the Midwest," squeezing more and more from the productive so they could coddle the worthless, the lazy, the parasitic, the criminal, the weird and the alcoholic and/or drugged out classes that mushroomed in the state. I, like many others, voted with my feet and beat it out of there. The turn-around began with Tommy Thompson and has reached its culmination with Scott Walker. What Wisconsinites did yesterday was not only good for them but will be good for Nevadans and the rest of the USA, as well. Good riddance to the "progressive" agenda and its wreaking havoc on traditional America! Come November, vote Mitt!

  12. With the voters sanity, the NYSE is rallying. Go figure. I certainly hope those who instigated this waste of time and money get to foot the millions in costs for the recall election. And I hope this does not encourage complacent behavior--we still must work to restore sanity in national politics. Unions have been empowered right into extinction?

  13. Now Jeff,
    You know you can't expect rational thought from TEA or Ref. Write for the sane readers but never expect the cranky old white guys club to change their minds because they have no mind to change.

  14. JefffromLV: All my relatives I have been in contact with and who still live in the Badger State voted for Scott Walker even though they all voted for Osama Obama, are mainly Dumbocrats and most belong to unions. All of them work for a living, don't look for handouts and are fed up with the way things are going. Plus, they were among those who believed the recall was bogus BS. Like the kid who cries and takes his ball home instead of playing the game. Unions should work for, not against their members. BTW, when unions back illegals who work for less and take money under the table and jobs from their very own members, they are out-of-touch and are harming, not protecting, their members. The fat cats at the top of the unions continue to make big bucks while the rank & file suffer lay-offs and reduced hours. How nice of them!