Coming Up Short In Wisconsin, Dems Eye Battles Ahead

Jessica King is one of two Wisconsin Democrats who successfully ousted a Republican state lawmaker in Tuesday's recall elections.

Although Washington progressive and Democratic groups put a lot of skin in the Wisconsin recall game — and ultimately came up short in that effort — they say they are not giving up, seeing more fights coming up.

Although Wisconsin Democrats succeeded in recalling two state Republican senators Tuesday night, they failed to pick up the three seats required to take control of the state senate.

They came tantalizingly close, however, as a third Wisconsin Democrat, reportedly came within 2,000 votes of defeating Republican state senator Luther Olsen. If Olsen had been defeated, Democrats could have claimed control of the state senate.

In the weeks leading up to the recall elections, spurred by outrage over Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to strip state workers of their collective bargaining rights, Washington activists on the left poured millions of dollars into the effort through get-out-the-vote initiatives, TV ads, and more.

“I’m not going to sugarcoat it — we came up short in Wisconsin last night. We needed to win three seats to take back the State Senate and we got two,” says Jim Dean, chairman of the group Democracy For America (DFA), and brother of former Democratic National Committee head and Vermont governor Howard Dean.

“This was always going to be a tough fight. These were Republican districts and these six Republican Senators were backed up by tens of millions of dollars from big corporations,” Jim Dean adds, referring to the flood of conservative ads and more which poured into the Wisconsin races ahead of the recalls to defend the embattled Republican lawmakers. “The fact that we won two of these elections and came so close in a third is a testament to the strength of our grassroots movement.”

Dean struck a defiant tone, running through the fights in which DFA will play in the coming months.

“We’re going to fight in Ohio, where voters have a chance to repeal another anti-union, anti-middle class law in a special referendum this November,” he says. “We’re going to fight in Michigan, where the governor has launched an all-out war on local governments. We’re going to fight until we win — and next year, we’re going to beat John Boehner and his right-wing Tea Party majority.”

Another Washington group which played in the Wisconsin recalls, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), took a more celebratory tone even as the state senate would remain in GOP hands.

“In a nearly unprecedented political event, Democrats collected the hundreds of thousands of signatures required to trigger recalls of six incumbent Republican state Senators who last won their seats in the overwhelming Democratic wave of 2008,” says DLCC Executive Director Michael Sargeant. “Picking up any one of these districts is an astounding electoral feat, and we’re incredibly proud of Senators-elect Jennifer Shilling and Jessica King. These Democratic wins mark an enormous victory for middle-class values and working families everywhere.”

Sargeant also pointed to another, lesser-known victory.

“Wisconsin wasn’t the only place Democrats enjoyed victories tonight. A special election in the New Hampshire House resulted in yet another pickup for our Party—and yet another strident rebuke of the GOP’s Tea Party-fueled, extreme right-wing agenda,” he says.


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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