MADISON – The Republican recall elections took over this past week, putting redistricting and some agricultural issues in the back seat.
Seven down, two to go
With six of the elections finished Republicans maintained a 17-16 majority in the state Senate by retaining four seats.
But Democrats still claimed a victory by gaining seats in the 18th and 32nd districts, unseating state Sens. Randy Hopper, R-Fond du Lac, and Dan Kapanke, R-La Crosse, with school teacher Jessica King and state Rep. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, respectively.
State Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, kept his seat against challenger David VanderLeest with 67 percent of the vote in the general election July 19.
Where Republicans kept their seats, the incumbents won with less than a 10 percent margin.
Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, had the largest margin, beating his opponent Nancy Nusbaum with more than 9,500 votes, a 20 percent margin.
The closest race, with a 4 percent margin, was state Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, who defeated challenger state Rep. Fred Clark, D-Baraboo.
“They always kept saying, ‘Luther you’re not listening to your constituents; you’re not listening to your constituents,’” Olsen told a crowd of supporters during a victory speech in his hometown of Ripon. “Tonight my constituents spoke, and guess what?”
The unprecedented number of recalls at one time garnered the Badger State much attention, although it isn’t quite over yet.
Where to next
Even though Republicans hold a slim majority, no one believes the Democrats will back off.
Groups are gathering pledges for the more than 500,000 signatures needed to put Gov. Scott Walker on a ballot for recall in January.
Also, the remaining recalled Democrats will face their challengers Aug 16.
State Sen. Jim Holperin, D-Conover, will run against small business owner Kim Simac, of Eagle River, in District 12, and Kenosha Attorney Jonathan Steitz will compete against incumbent Sen. Robert Wirch, D-Pleasant Prairie, for District 22.
Nothing is new about negative television and radio campaigns, but in the historic recall elections, the ads have been flowing from third-party spenders.
In addition to the ads, Wisconsin Jobs Now — a pro-union group — sponsored several block parties that fed residents of Milwaukee before taking them to City Hall to cast their absentee ballots.
These events may be in violation of the state’s election laws, but Milwaukee County District Attorney Bruce Landgraf did not comment on the matter Thursday to Wisconsin Reporter.
Drawing the new map
The new maps drawn for Wisconsin’s congressional and legislative districts have caused controversy to flare once again between the parties.
State Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, opposes the new lines, calling them a GOP grab for power and clearly partisan.
“What I’ve seen over the last 10, 20, 30 years is the maps get drawn, and one party sues another party, and the maps pretty much stay close to how they were originally drawn,” said state Rep. Mark Honadel, R-South Milwaukee, to Wisconsin Reporter on Thursday.
Historically, the party in power draws the district lines after the census data is collected and analyzed for demographic shifts. Any changes in the districts will start affecting voters in the November 2012 elections and stay in place for the next decade.
A state official compelled a federal department to abandon a proposed regulation that would have required all farmers who drive their farm equipment on roads to get a commercial driver’s license, or CDL.
“Not only would have this been a complete waste of time and money,” state Rep. Travis Tranel, R-Cuba City, said in a statement Thursday. “It also would have been a barrier to getting Wisconsin youth involved in agriculture, as you have to be 18 in order to obtain a CDL.”
Tranel wrote letters to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
The statement Thursday said Tranel was thrilled to learn that the proposal was dropped.