WAUKESHA, Wisc. — ‚??WALKER 2, UNION THUGS 0‚?Ě blared the legend on one sign outside Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker‚??s election night headquarters here.¬†The reference was obvious:¬†¬†In defeating Democrat Tom Barrett for the second time since their initial race for governor in 2010, Walker had just survived a nationally watched recall election launched by organized labor and done¬†¬†so with a handsome 53 percent of the vote.¬†¬†As midnight approached, the overflow crowd of Walker‚??s admirers spilled out of the Expo Center into its parking lot and awaited the governor‚??s arrival to claim victory.
Actually, the crowd had a lot more to cheer about than Walker‚??s two wins at the polls.¬†¬†Along with his triumph Tuesday, four out of five other Republicans under fire in the Badger State survived labor-backed onslaughts and won handily.¬†¬†Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch easily defeated firefighters union leader Mahlon Mitchell,¬†¬†and State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald put down a recall attempt with ease. Another GOP senator¬† who had been recalled and was thought to be in the most political danger, Terry Moulton, won with ease.
State Rep. Jerry Petrowski won the open seat created by the resignation of fellow Republican Pam Galloway.¬† The only loss for Republicans Tuesday was the early morning report that State Sen. Van Waggaard, the third Republican targeted in a recall, was defeated.¬† Initially called a winner last night in much of the press, Waggaard apparently lost to Democrat and former Sen. John Lehman by 779 votes, or about one percent of the total votes cast. A recount of the race for the Racine seat is likely.
But even if Lehman wins and Democrats take control of the senate with a 17 to 16 seat edge, it doesn‚??t mean that much.¬† The legislature has adjourned for the year and will take no further action.¬† Several GOP operatives told Human Events they expect their ranks to grow in the senate in November by at least two seats, as the redistricting of the senate was orchestrated by Republicans (who control the state Assembly as well, with Scott Fitzgerald‚??s brother Jeff as the speaker).¬† The next time the senate will meet is in January, after elections have been held.
For enacting measures to end collective bargaining among some public sector employees and require them to pay a greater share for their pensions and health care benefits, Walker and his allies faced about as fierce a response as one could face in politics.¬†¬†Now that they have survived, political observers in Madison are beginning to wonder if unions will have a war on their hands.
Some speculate that Walker will next embrace trying to make Wisconsin a right-to-work state.¬†¬†Although he has publicly said he doesn‚??t expect a right-to-work measure to come to his desk, the governor has never said what he would do if it was passed and required his signatgure to become law.¬†¬†In addition, on June 30, the state Department of Adminstration is expected to give Walker a report on options to define public employee retirement program.¬†¬†Many in the unions fear that this could include a wholesale overhaul of the pension system in favor of a 401-K or similar retirement plan now used in most private sector businesses.
No one knows yet what Walker will do next.¬†¬†But given his triumph and the continuing Republican rule in Wisconsin, political observers here are certainly entitled to ask ‚??what will they do for an encore?‚?Ě