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The Wisconsin Recall Elections
posted by: Alix | August 12, 2011, 05:11 PM   

After an unsuccessful messaging war, legal battle, and recall campaign, the unions in Wisconsin are almost out of options. On Wednesday, the dust settled on major recall elections designed to overturn Republican majorities in the Wisconsin State Senate in an effort to stop some of the most extensive public union reforms in the country.

The road to this week has been a long one. Back in February, the state legislature tried to push through a "budget repair" bill that aimed to curb public union power in order to rein in spending. The Democratic minority in the Senate, lacking the votes to block or defeat the legislation, instead fled to Illinois, depriving the chamber of a quorum to vote. Only after many extensive legislative maneuvers were the remaining lawmakers able to pass the bill, after which they were met with labor-backed interest groups who vowed to avenge the down-and-out unions stripped of their monopoly power and forced dues.

What followed was one of the most contentious and expensive political battles in Badger State history. While Democrats managed to secure enough signatures to force six Republicans senators to a recall election, their loud protests and signatures were not enough to shift majorities.

Had they won three of those races, they would have gained control of the Senate, allowing them to circumvent any labor-reform changes they wanted. When it was over, they had won just two new seats. Additionally, there are two Democrats up for a recall next week, conceivably allowing for the Senate to return to its original majority. Clearly the results are painting this entire recall scheme to be quite an expensive side-show.

After more than $35 million spent collectively and countless advertisements and protests, the union came of short of overturning the will of the electorate, marked by tremendous gains by reform-minded legislators in 2010. While some interest groups are now setting their sights on Governor Walker himself, he is not yet eligible for recall and many argue that their defeat this week has already signaled that they would be again unsuccessful.

The country now sets its sights on Ohio, where voters will decide in November whether to repeal the state's new collective bargaining law, Senate Bill 5, similar to the Wisconsin budget bill. Supporters of the law are looking to Wisconsin as a sign of good news to come.

Jason Mauk, spokesman for Building a Better Ohio, characterized the Wisconsin recall elections as a failure of Big Labor influence. "Labor got into this with the goal of shifting the balance of power and they failed. There's no other way to read it. They spent millions of dollars in hopes of sending a message and it fell flat."

Time will tell what this victory means to the education and labor reform movement nationally, but the election is certainly a step in the right direction for taxpayers and teachers seeking a choice in professional affiliation.

What are your thoughts on the outcome of the Wisconsin elections?
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