Walker Watch: Gov. Scott Walker faces tough challenge by union-backed rivals in June recall election

No sooner was the Republican presidential primary over in Wisconsin last night than political talk in the Badger State turned to what pundits and pols call the “dress rehearsal” for the national elections: the race June 5 to determine whether Republican Gov. Scott Walker remains in office or not.

With more than one million signatures submitted calling for Walker’s recall—or more than twice those required by state law–the special election has been certified and set for June 5.  Already, it has taken on national significance.  GOP presidential hopefuls Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum weighed in strongly for Walker while campaigning in the state, and Mitt Romney worked a phonebank to drum up support for him at the governor’s Fitchburg headquarters.

In addition, the Republican Governors Association has unleashed TV spots attacking two potential Democratic opponents as tax-and-spend liberals who killed jobs.  The two candidates, former Milwaukee Mayor (and Walker’s 2010 opponent) Tom Barrett and former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, are among several Democrats who will compete in the primary May 8 to determine who faces Walker the following month.  

The Republican Governors Association clearly means business.  In 2010, it was Walker’s largest financial backer, deploying $5 million to elect him over Barrett.

Certainly, Walker’s “dodging the bullet” June 5 will give Republicans vital momentum to carry Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes in November.  

Along with state and national Democrats, labor unions have a lot to gain from organizing, mobilizing and successfully delivering the votes needed to depose Walker. In so doing, they would enhance their role as a critical part of the national Democratic coalition—critical, as union membership has declined from 20.1 percent of salaried workers (roughly 17.7 million) in 1983 to 11.8 per cent (14.8 million) in 2011.  

Walker, of course, is so hated by Big Labor for successfully pushing through the GOP-controlled legislature measures that required many public sector employees to pay for a greater share of their retirement and health benefits.  Last year, union-backed recalls failed to remove a GOP-appointed state Supreme Court judge or to end Republican control of the state Senate (although recalls succeeded in some cases and reduced the GOP margin in the Senate to a wafer-thin one seat advantage).

As for the standing of Walker himself, it depends on what day of the week the polling is done. A recent PPP poll showed Falk edging the GOP chief executive by a slim 48-to-47 percent margin and Barrett leading Walker 49-to-46 percent.  The same poll showed Walker defeating other Democratic hopefuls.  He edges Secretary of State Doug LaFollette by 46-to-45 percent and State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout 46-to-44 percent.

The common denominator in all these match-ups, as veteran Wisconsin GOP consultant Scott Becher told HUMAN EVENTS, “is that they are all very, very tight and could easily flip, no matter which Democrat emerges as the nominee.  And remember, where only about 1,000 new jobs were created last year, this year more than 19,000 have so far been created.  As economic conditions improve, so will Gov. Walker’s poll numbers.”

Along with Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, there are new elections June 5 in the seats of four Republican state senators, including that of State Senate GOP Leader Scott Fitzgerald.

So while the presidential primary is over, we will be still be hearing political news from Wisconsin between now and June 5—a lot of it.