Wisconsin’s Political Outlook: Recall Results

On June 5th, Wisconsin became the third state to ever attempt to recall its governor, and the first where that governor was able to retain his seat. The implications of the election could spill over to November, but perhaps more interestingly, will change the debate at the national level.

While Wisconsin’s 15 minutes months of fame may be coming to a close, Gov. Scott Walker’s story seems to be just beginning as his authoritative victory has cast him as a national celebrity in the Republican party.

Turnout projections painted a picture of a race that could see near presidential election like voter turnout, but those projections were a bit off. Actual turnout showed an uptick from 2010 gubernatorial election numbers, but far from presidential election turnout.

The Governor’s Race—What it Means

Walker’s seven point victory margin was impressive as well as a little surprising to both sides paying attention to what their internal polls were telling them in the final few days before the election. Such a large margin of victory erases all doubt and claims from either side as to the validity of the election. It also makes clear the path the electorate has chosen: Governor Walker deserves to finish his term.

Insiders will speculate as to whether or not voters were pulling the lever to support the Walker agenda or were more motivated by opposing the recall election. Either way, Walker now has breathing room for the first time since he was elected last January to actually govern the state.

The margin also likely slows down the efficacy of any charges in a John Doe hearing. The public was largely not swayed by the current status of the investigation, and if the Governor was to become a target, many will assume it is politically motivated regardless of the charges.

Following this election, many will wonder about Governor Walker’s upside. What is his ceiling now? He beat the public employee unions in the state where they were created. He raised money like few, if any, gubernatorial candidates have ever done. He is a master at delivering a political message. And finally, he’s the Governor of a swing state. His role at the RNC convention later this summer will be interesting to watch.

Democrats and Labor
The Democrats’ chances appeared the strongest at the times when they had no candidate against Walker. Once the realities hit home that their “A” team wasn’t going to run, the odds began to diminish.

The Falk/labor effort in the primary distracted Democratic voters, wasted money on a fool’s errand, and resulted in a weaker, underfunded Tom Barrett on the general election ballot. Barrett never recovered and could not chip away at the voting bloc Walker had built in most places outside of Madison and Milwaukee. Money was not the only reason Barrett lost, but he never was able to build the momentum necessary to swing the race, and the Democratic division contributed to that.

Many will question labor’s role in Wisconsin politics moving forward, as its past prowess as an electoral heavyweight has seemingly diminished.

Senate Races
When Tidbits ranked the races in an earlier piece, it had Senator Van Wanggaard as the most likely Republican to lose his race for the state senate, followed by Senator Moulton, Representative Petrowski and Majority Leader Fitzgerald. In the end, Wanggaard was the only one to fall, and it happened by the narrowest of margins.

Moulton, Petrowski and Fitzgerald all had impressive victories, with Moulton’s decisive win surprising many that had his race versus Kristen Dexter as a toss-up going into Election Day.

The Senate now sits at 17 Democrats and 16 Republicans, but unless the Democrats can think of a creative way to pick up a seat, Republicans will almost assuredly take the majority back in the November elections due to the open seat left by retiring Senate Democrat Jim Holperin. Holperin’s seat is Republican by the numbers, and current Republican Rep. Tom Tiffany is running to fill it against a relative unknown.

The Results


Scott Walker (R) – 53%
Tom Barrett (D) – 46%
Hari Trevedi (I) – 1%
Precincts Reporting – 100%

Lt. Governor

Rebecca Kleefisch (R) – 53%
Mahlon Mitchell (D) – 47%
Precincts Reporting – 100%

State Senate

District 13
Scott Fitzgerald (R) – 58%
Lori Compas (D) – 41%
Terry Virgil (L) – 1%
Precincts Reporting – 100%

District 21
Van Wanggard (R) – 49%
John Lehman (D) – 51%
Precincts Reporting – 100%

District 23
Terry Moulton (R) – 57%
Kristen Dexter (D) – 43%
Precincts Reporting – 100%

District 29
Jerry Petrowski (R) – 61%
Donna Seidel (D) – 39%
Precincts Reporting – 100%


For additional 2012 elections information, please visit Hamilton Consulting’s 2012 Recall Elections Webpage, or contact a Hamilton Consulting Group lobbyist.