Nine Wisconsin State Senators -- six Republicans and three Democrats -- face recall elections this summer. This unusual flurry of electoral do-overs in the Badger State was precipitated by the fierce fight over Gov. Scott Walker's controversial budget fix, which is already paying dividends for taxpayers and middle class workers. The Reuters story on our homepage suggests that Democrats "won" the first round of the recall battle:
Wisconsin Democrats won a preliminary victory on Tuesday in their bid to unseat Republican lawmakers who voted for a controversial anti-union law in the first of a series of special recall elections. Party-backed candidates won in each of six state Senate districts in Tuesday's vote, essentially a Democratic primary but with an odd twist, that took place ahead of a formal August recall vote. The candidates had to beat back unusual primary challenges from six Republicans who ran as Democrats in order to give the targeted Republican incumbents more time to campaign, raise money and maintain their party's hold on the state Senate.
There is no doubt that this was Democrats' preferred outcome, but the GOP's cheeky gambit achieved its purpose. Further, John McCormack sees an additional "glimmer of hope" for Republicans in yesterday's slightly complicated results:
The one surprise: "real" Democrat Shelley Moore is beating "protest" candidate Isaac Weix by just 8 points, or about 2,500 votes. The close race in the 10th District suggests that Republican senator Sheila Harsdorf's supporters are fired up and ready to go, as they say. That would be very good news for Republicans, as Harsdorf had appeared to be the third most vulnerable Republican facing recall, and Democrats need to net three seats to take over the senate.
The conventional wisdom is that each party has one exceptionally vulnerable Senator in the recall crosshairs. If Democrat Jim Holperin and Republican Dan Kapanke both lose, that's a wash. Democrats would need to win three of the remaining five recall elections against Republicans, and play flawless defense on their end, to seize control of the chamber. Based on McCormack's nugget, that task may be rather difficult. What's the timetable for the recall matches? The Fix's Rachel Weiner has assembled a handy guide. Basically, the contests will come in three waves: July 19th (two Republican primaries, and one general against a Democrat), August 9th (against all six Republicans), and August 16th (against two Democrats). How these will ultimately play out is anyone's guess, particularly because of various X factors, like the inevitable influx of resources, outside money, operatives, and media attention.
Oh, and by the way, Massachusetts enacted a very modest measure to curb government-sector collective bargaining privileges yesterday. (Be sure to note the bit about the state's "soaring" healthcare costs in the linked story. Like Obamacare, Romneycare doesn't bend the cost curve down). Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby sings the praises of the Bay State's incremental, but real, progress:
Ensuring a "voice" for organized labor in government policymaking may sound reasonable, especially when those policies affect government workers. But collective bargaining in the public sector is in reality not reasonable at all. It is emphatically not like bargaining in the private sector, where unions representing labor contend with management representing owners for a share of the profits that labor helps create.
In the public sector, there are no profits to share. There are only taxpayers' dollars, which neither government employees nor government managers create. As for the taxpayers who do create those dollars, they have no seat at the table when public unions negotiate over wages and benefits. Instead, government sits on both sides, negotiating with itself over how to spend the people's money....
Gradually it is becoming clear that throwing the door open to public-sector unions was a serious and costly mistake. It will take years to undo that mistake, but the process has begun. Even, if ever so slowly, in Massachusetts.