Democrats Appear to take Control of WI Senate

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) survived a recall attempt yesterday; the recall election was prompted by Walker’s attack last year on collective bargaining rights of public sector employees, specifically teachers, nurses, and social workers. Democratic nominee, Tom Barrett, mayor of Milwaukee, lost to Walker by 6.9 percent of the vote, with Walker taking about 53 percent of the vote. Exit polls show that about 60 percent of Wisconsin voters feel that there should not have been a recall election because Walker was not accused of misconduct.

Walker outspent Barrett 7 to 1, with record-breaking campaign spending. The conservative Koch brothers are estimated to have spent $6 million alone for Walker’s campaign. Barrett also won the Democratic primary only a month ago, winning against Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. Falk had support of most public employees’ unions. President of the National Education Association, Dennis Van Roekel, said the large spending differences between Walker and Barrett show “the peril of corporate dollars in an election and the dangers of Citizens United.”

According to the Los Angeles Times and other news outlets, Wisconsin Democratic State Senate candidate John Lehman won his election, though his opponent Van Wanggard, the incumbent, has yet to concede. If Lehman is victorious, the Democrats will take control of the state senate and therefore have a greater chance of protecting collective bargaining rights for teachers and all public sector employees in Wisconsin.

There was a gender gap, with women more likely to vote for Barrett and men for Walker but a majority of both women and men voted for Walker. According to the Washington Post, “Walker’s share of the vote among women was 12 points lower than his share among men.” However, 59 percent of men voted for Walker and only 40 percent voted for Barrett. Walker narrowly lost women, taking 47 percent of the women’s vote while Barrett took 52 percent.

The NBC exit poll also shows that 18 percent of President Barack Obama supporters voted for Barrett. President Obama won by 11 points in the exit poll, 53-42. Turnout for the recall election was lower than turnout in the 2008 election by approximately 500,000 votes. However, turnout was substantially higher than it was for the 2010 election.

Walker’s cuts to collective bargaining for public sector unions disproportionately affect women, especially teachers. Women comprise about 78 percent of elementary and secondary school teachers.

Los Angeles Times 6/6/12; MSNBC 6/6/12; NPR 6/6/12; Washington Post 6/6/12; New York Times 6/5/12

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