The most visible target is Gov. Scott Walker, who faces recall on June 5 over his tough package of state budget and public employee union reforms. Three state GOP legislators -- Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, Sen. Van Wanggaard and Sen. Terry Moulton -- also face recall. A fourth target, staunch union reformer and Second Amendment advocate Sen. Pam Galloway, announced she was stepping down last week -- leaving the legislature deadlocked and Democratic strategists salivating.
Walker and the GOP majority ended the union compulsory dues racket, allowed workers to choose whether to join a union, curtailed costly bargaining rights and enacted pension and health contribution requirements to bring the government in line with private-sector practices. The Walker reform law helped prevent massive layoffs in public education by saving tens of millions of dollars in bloated benefits bills. Ending the state union monopoly on teachers' health insurance plans allowed dozens of school districts to switch their coverage to more competitive bidders.
The free-market MacIver Institute reports that at least 25 school districts did so, saving the districts more than $200 per student. Hundreds of millions more in savings are in the works as school districts and local governments turn deficits to surpluses. And Walker's actions have nearly wiped out the nearly $3.6 billion deficit he inherited from his free-spending predecessors.
New poll data released on Tuesday show two potential Democratic rivals neck and neck with Walker. Wisconsin politicos tell me his national name recognition has bolstered public awareness and fundraising efforts. He's currently sitting on a $5 million war chest. Walker supporters believe the Big Labor-fueled fight will be dirty, but with vigilant backing, he'll survive.
The outlook for the unhinged Left's secondary targets, however, is not so bright. Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, a tea party candidate who is not part of the GOP establishment, is being treated as collateral damage by the party. Outside of Wisconsin, most conservative activists are not even aware that she may be booted from office for simply doing her job. Kleefisch told me that on a recent fundraising swing in D.C., national GOP leaders were shocked to learn of her plight.
While Democratic femme-a-gogues continue their plaintive wailing about a "war on women," Kleefisch has battled vile misogyny from liberal detractors. When lefty Wisconsin radio host John "Sly" Sylvester accused Kleefisch of performing "fellatio on all the talk-show hosts in Milwaukee" and sneered that she had "pulled a train" (a crude phrase for gang sex), feminists remained silent. A former television anchor, small businesswoman and mother of two, Kleefisch's quiet work on economic development has reaped untold dividends for the state. But if conservatives who preach the gospel of fiscal conservatism do not act, the profligate progressives' vendetta against Wisconsin may result in the first-ever recall of a lieutenant governor in American history.
Kleefisch, a 36-year-old colon cancer survivor, is a fighter who points to her two young daughters when I ask why she's in the political arena. What message would it send to young tea party moms across the country if Walker survived but Kleefisch was hung out to dry? Will Beltway Republican strategists and donors who constantly harp about the need to diversify the party step up to the plate?
President Obama, the AFL-CIO, SEIU, AFSCME and left-wing operatives know that Wisconsin is Ground Zero in their battle against limited-government activists. Their demagogic propaganda war against Wisconsin GOP Rep. Paul Ryan, who is leading entitlement reform and budget discipline efforts in Washington, is of a piece with the campaign to overturn the popular elections that put Walker, Kleefisch and the GOP majority in place. If they can chill fiscal responsibility and free market-based reforms in Wisconsin, they can chill it everywhere. Will movement conservatives let them?
Michelle Malkin is the author of "Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies" (Regnery 2010). Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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