03 June 2011

Recall Elections Of Six Republicans Go Forward In Wisconsin

Public sector union supporters have successfully gathered enough signatures to force six Wisconsin legislators to face recall elections triggered by the controversial effort of Wisconsin legislators to deny public employees unions in the state collective bargaining rights. Notably, form a political perspective, Republicans has not made eliminating meaningful public sector unions a major point in their 2010 campaign effort which had focused on budget cutting measures, so it isn't unreasonable to expect that independents and Republicans who have some sympathy with the cause of public sector union workers or aren't happy with the fact that Republicans have pushed such a controversial issue in a way that created a media circus could vote to recall Republican state legislators whom they voted for last November.

A state judge in Wisconsin has also ruled that the public employee union law was passed in violation of the state's open meetings law and hence is void.

Thus, while Republicans won the battle to bust public sector unions in Wisconsin, they risk losing the war if voters use the recall elections to hand control of the state legislature, which Republicans won in November's election, back to Democrats. Another fight brought to the voters that was colored by the union busting legislation was, an electoral fight between a conservative and liberal candidate for the state supreme court that had previously been a non-issue that almost assured the incumbent conservative judge's re-election was won by the incumbent by only by a nose after a recount. The recall fights, however, are more directly related to the union busting legislation which they personally voted to enact.

The amount of grass roots support for a recall necessary to get one on the ballot in Wisconsin is suggestive of the amount of political energy and momentum that recall supporters have in this fight:

At no time in U.S. history have attempts been made to recall so many legislators at the same time over the same issue. To recall a senator in Wisconsin, recall organizers had to gather signatures from voters in each district equivalent to 25% of the number of people who voted for governor in November. That meant staff for the board had to review more than 18,000 signatures for each recall attempt.

Keep in mind that these signatures are being gathered in state legislative districts that elected Republicans within the last year, not safe Democratic seats. Also, the level of organization and political intensity displayed by union supporters against Republicans now may decisively influence Wisconsin's vote in the 2012 Presidential elections in favor of Democrats. The union busting move of Wisconsin's Republican leadership has activated vast numbers of otherwise apathetic or only slightly active union members and union supporters in the state, turning them into a political force to be reckoned with, regardless of the outcome of these particular recall efforts. And, if many of the recall elections are successful, it would also pop the balloon of any mandate in popular opinion that Republicans could have claimed based upon their 2010 electoral sweep, only about a year before the next state legislative and Presidential election. Voters, campaign contributors and political campaign volunteers don't like political losers; they want to vote for someone who can win and may lose faith when a candidate's prospects seem diminished.

The Wisconsin legislation inspired copycat efforts in a number of other states, some successful, that face a less imminent threat of being overturned after the fact than the Wisconsin legislation.

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