After losing two of the six recall elections against Republican state senators in Wisconsin Tuesday, Democrats finally defeated a GOP incumbent. In a race that went back and forth, conservative Republican State Sen. Dan Kapanke was finally edged out by liberal Democratic State Rep. Jennifer Schilling.
The contest in the 6th District had been considered the most likely of the nationally-watched recall elections in the Badger State to flip from Republican to Democrat. The district, which surrounds LaCrosse near the Minnesota border, gave Barack Obama 61% of its vote in 2008. In contrast to some of the other districts targeted by Democrats and organized labor, there was a relatively weak “tea party” presence.
Conservative Kapanke never retreated from his support of Republican Scott Walker’s conservative agenda, including limiting collective bargaining for state employees and cuts from state aid to education and to localities. Schilling hit this hard, calling Kapanke a “rubber stamp” for the governor.
As Kapanke’s defeat became apparent Tuesday, a few supporters began suggesting he follow the example of Mayor Frank Skeffington, fictional hero of the classic novel “The Last Hurrah,” who is defeated for re-election and promptly announces he will run for governor the following year. Last fall, Kapanke narrowly lost a spirited campaign against veteran Democratic Rep. Ron Kind. With speculation mounting that Kind will give up his seat in 2012 to run for the seat of retiring Sen. and fellow Democrat Herb Kohl, there is already encouragement for Kapanke, his loss of a senate seat aside, to now focus on a bid for Congress.