Wisconsin Recall — Stranger Than Fiction
One of the most amazing political sagas in recent memory is playing out in Wisconsin. Here are a few of the highlights — the full story would fill a novel. And a great novel it would be. Now, I’m a science fiction and fantasy writer, but I wouldn’t touch something like this. It’s too unbelievable for the my own preferred genres.
Newly-elected Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker pushed a serious union-busting measure through the state legislature earlier this year, resulting in massive protests at the state capital, protests which were echoed in other places around the country.
Governor Walker used a projected deficit in the state budget as an excuse for these measures. We know the state budget was really just an excuse, and the real goal was to bust the unions, because the unions agreed to the cost saving measures. Walker still insisted on the measures that would nearly dismantle the unions, and remove nearly all collective bargaining rights for most state workers.
The Democrats in the state legislature fled the state to deny a quorum to the Republicans, so the union-busting measure couldn’t be voted on. Gov. Walker attempted a number of tricks to bring them back, including offering to negotiate, with the intent that as soon as they were in the capital, the Republican senate leader would call the chamber to order and hold the vote without the Democrats being present. But this scheme was revealed by a prank caller from the Buffalo Beast, and the Democrats stayed away.
The Republicans passed the measure anyway, using a procedure of questionable legality. They stripped the anti-union measures from the financial measures in the bill, and passed the union-killing portions separately, under rules that allowed less than a quorum. But they violated the state’s Open Meetings law, by not posting the measure as far in advance as the law requires.
Democratic state legislators took the law to court, and Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi who heard the case found against the Republicans, and ordered implementation of the law be suspended. The case was, however, clearly headed for the Wisconsin state Supreme Court.
One possible snag for Governor Walker, however, was that the court’s chief justice, David Prosser — a longtime Republican partisan — had to undergo a reëlection. The vote was very close, and on election night, April 6, the initial vote count had Prosser losing to his opponent, JoAnne Kloppenburg, by some 204 votes. This result surprised most political observers, because Prosser had been expected to win reëlection handily. It was taken as a sign of how unpopular Walker’s policies had become.
However, two days later, Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus (who used to work for Prosser) “discovered” some 11,000 previously uncounted votes from a heavily Republican district, hiding in her personal laptop computer (the votes, not the district or Nickolaus). Prosser was declared the winner, with a margin of about 7500 votes.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court heard the appeal of the case involving the union-busting bill and, to no one’s amazement, found that the vote of the Republican legislators did not violate the state’s Open Meetings Law.
But the saga does not end there. Wisconsin voters were so outraged by this series of events that they have collected petitions in an effort to recall as many Republican state senators as possible. In response, Republicans have attempted to recall Democrats. Here are the details:
Wisconsin’s recall law contains a condition that any effort cannot begin until at least one year into a term — meaning that only 16 members, eight Democrats and eight Republicans, could currently be recalled. In order to initiate a recall, petitioners must gather signatures equal to 25 percent of the total votes within that district in the previous gubernatorial election. After various petition drives this past spring, recalls have now been certified for six Republicans and three Democrats, with the others having failed to meet the threshold.
Wisconsin’s Republican party is not done with its games. They rustled up enough signatures to have recall elections for three Democratic state senators as well. And, in an effort to confuse the recalls, they set fake candidates — Republicans running as Democrats — to slow down the recalls against Republicans, thus requiring “recall primaries.” This will force Democrats to waste money running against imposter primary opponents. It will force Wisconsin to waste money holding fake primaries. It will allow the Republicans another month to raise money — which is important to them, because their fundraising is trailing their opponents’ by a lot.
The fake primaries were held yesterday, July 12. The actual recall elections for these seats will be held August 9. In addition, next Tuesday, July 19, there will be “real” primaries for two Republicans, and one actual general recall election, in which incumbent Democrat Dave Hansen is heavily favored to win. The Democrats must pick up a net gain of three seats to take control of the Wisconsin state Senate.
The results of yesterday’s fake primaries:
Democrat Nancy Nusbaum defeated fake candidate Otto Junkermann with about 65% of the vote.
Democrat Sandra Pasch defeated fake candidate Gladys Huber with about 66% of the vote.
Democrat Shelly Moore defeated fake candidate Isaac Weix with about 54% of the vote.
Democrat Fred Clark defeated fake candidate Rol Church with about 67% of the vote.
Democrat Jessica King defeated fake candidate John Buckstaff with about 67% of the vote.
Democrat Jennifer Shilling defeated fake candidate James Smith, with about 71% of the vote.
Stay tuned. This saga is far from over.
- Would Obey Challenge Walker in Wisconsin? (politicalwire.com)
- Recall Season Opens in Wisconsin (online.wsj.com)
- Political Drama With Cheese (logarchism.com)
- Primary Voting Gets Under Way in Wisconsin Recall Campaigns (foxnews.com)
About dcpetterson (198 posts)
D. C. Petterson is a novelist and a software consultant in Minnesota who has been writing science fiction since the age of six. He is the author of A Melancholy Humour, Rune Song and Still Life. He lives with his wife, two dogs, two cats, and a lizard, and insists that grandchildren are the reward for having survived teenagers. When not writing stories or software, he plays guitar and piano, engages in political debate, and reads a lot of history and physics texts—for fun. Follow on Twitter @dcpetterson