With All Eyes On Default, Some Dems Continue To Focus on Wisc. Recalls

Despite the budget chaos in Washington, several national Democratic groups continue to work in Wisconsin ahead of the August 9 recall elections triggered by outrage over GOP Gov. Scott Walker's union-stripping law.

The federal government may go into default on Tuesday, but some Democrats continue to focus on the other big political day coming next month: the day of the final batch of recall elections in Wisconsin.

Most Washington Democrats, understandably, remain enmeshed in the politics and policy of the debt crisis, but several big Democratic and progressive groups based in the nation’s capital continue to fight it out in the coming recall elections in the Badger State.

Wisconsin voters in several state districts will go to the polls August 9 to decide whether to dump two Democratic state lawmakers and six Republicans in historic recall elections. (One state Democrat, state Sen. Dave Hansen, already won big in his recall, able to remain in office in the first recall earlier this month.)

The recalls were triggered earlier this year in response to the outrage over Republican support for GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to strip state workers of their ability to bargain collectively. (Republicans responded to Democratic efforts to recall GOP lawmakers by forcing recall elections of Democratic lawmakers.)

If Democrats can oust three Republicans in the coming recalls, they can retake control of the state senate, and be in a stronger position to oppose further initiatives put forward by the conservative Walker.

“We’ve never been closer to winning these Wisconsin recall elections than we are right now,” says Michael Langenmayr, deputy political director of Democracy for America (DFA), a progressive group affiliated with former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean.

DFA and other groups have been emailing supporters this week in a heavy fundraising drive ahead of the recalls to support voter-mobilization, keeping TV ads on the air, and more.

The continued financial support is key, according to John Winston, national political director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), because conservative interest groups have been “pouring” funds into the state to defend the embattled state Republicans.

“The reason is very simple, according to the [Washington] Post: ‘the sudden influx of outside conservative money suggests that national right wing activists understand that if Dems take back the state senate, it would represent a massive blow to their broader agenda,'” Winston says.

“That’s exactly what we’ve said from the beginning: defeating the GOP in Wisconsin will show Republicans across the country that there will be consequences for any legislator who votes for Scott Walker’s radical agenda,” he adds. “And that’s why the DLCC has launched an aggressive response, including multiple television ads that we’ve expanded to include a targeted multimedia push.”

Nick Passanante, DFA’s Wisconsin field director, recently reported to supporters via email about the 38 days he’s spent on the ground in the state.

Polls put Democrats ahead in three state districts, but down in three others, he says, including District 10, held by Republican state Sen. Sheila Harsdorf.

“A win in any of these three districts would be huge and we have all the momentum right now,” Passanante says. “We’ve already knocked on 20,163 doors in Districts 8 and 10 and we’re making calls into these districts every night. Now, we’re expanding our canvass in District 10 to put us over the top.”

Harsdorf’s district a solid Republican area where “no one ever thought would be competitive, but the reaction to Republican attacks on middle class families has been so strong that we have a real shot of pulling off an upset here,” he says.

“We’ve been on the ground in District 10 for three weeks. We’ve already hit 9,940 doors and the response has been amazing. Expanding our ground program here could be what makes the difference,” he adds.


Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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