Incumbent Wins First Recall Election in Wisconsin

By Sean Cavanagh — July 20, 2011 2 min read
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An incumbent Democrat, state Sen. Dave Hansen, easily defeated his opponent Tuesday in the first of nine recall elections in Wisconsin being held in the aftermath of the state’s divisive fight over collective bargining.

Hansen, a former private school teacher and truck driver from Green Bay, was widely regarded as the favorite going into the race.

His Republican opponent, David VanderLeest, was dogged by reports of personal and legal woes. Another potential candidate, state Rep. John Nygren, did not secure enough valid signatures to have his name placed on the ballot.

Hansen’s victory leaves eight recall elections of state senators yet to be decided. Six incumbent Republicans and two Democratic officeholders are being challenged; the general elections in those contests are scheduled for Aug. 9 and 16. The results from Tuesday were reported by the Associated Press, though the official results have not yet been reported by the state’s Government Accountability Board.

The recall elections were organized in the wake of the angry, partisan standoff over Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s successful effort to pass a law that limited the collective bargaining rights of teachers and many other public employees. Democrats accused Walker, a Republican, and the GOP majority in the legislature, of pushing the measure through with no negotiation and little public input. Republicans criticized Democratic lawmakers for their actions during the debate, which included fleeing the state in order to prevent a vote on the measure.

If Democrats gain three net seats in the recall elections, they will wrest control of the state Senate from Republicans, giving them considerably more power to block Walker’s agenda.

Hansen’s contest was not the only race on the ballot Tuesday. Two Republican candidates secured a spot on the general election ballot next month by winning their primaries. Jonathan Steitz defeated Fred Ekornaas in the District 22 primary and will face incumbent Democratic state Sen. Robert Wirch in the general. And Kim Simac won her District 12 primary against Robert Lussow, earning the right to challenge Democratic state Sen. Jim Holperin.

See my previous item for background on the recall campaigns, and earlier coverage of Wisconsin’s collective-bargaining battle and its implications for schools.

Photo: Dave Hansen leans in to kiss his wife, Jane, during a victory party in Green Bay on July 19. By Corey Wilson/The Green Bay Press-Gazette/AP.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.