For 16 months, Wisconsinites have been living a surreal dream – one in which the heroes and villains are strictly a matter of political preference. If Milwaukee Mayor and Democratic challenger Tom Barrett beats incumbent GOP Governor Scott Walker in today’s recall election, it will be the biggest political shocker in Wisconsin history.
UW Election Eye will have a front row seat to either the governor’s victory or defeat tonight in Waukesha. But first, we will be “live” blogging from various precincts throughout the day.
WAUSAU, Wisc. – There may be a trickle of undecided voters left as Wisconsinites awaken to the most politically charged day in anybody’s memory, but good luck finding any.
From the woman behind the Starbucks counter in Hudson, to the postal worker in Presque Isle, to the unemployed bicyclist in Beloit, to the cop working his beat in northwest Milwaukee – everybody who’s voting has had their minds made up for more months than they can count.
“For this fabulous state to have some dumb recall election where we get to vote somebody off the island like on the TV show Survivor is very embarrassing to me,” said Pam Gendron, a vocal Walker supporter who said the whole notion of a recall makes her ill.
“Why in the world do we need recalls when there are clear four-year election cycles in the state constitution?”
Teachers’ union rep Joe Russo said his beloved Wisconsin deserves better than Walker – the Baptist preacher’s kid who has worked hard to break the backs of public unions.
“The math is simple. Walker equals liar. That’s it,” said Russo, a teacher in nearby Washburn for 36 years. “That’s why we need recalls in this state. Don’t lie to me. Don’t tell me partial truths. Level with me.”
Russo made four long trips to Madison to protest against Walker in the state capitol building.
“If the governor was too scared to step outside with all of us there, how can we trust him to lead us?” he said. “We need this recall. This is going to be very close.”
If North Carolina based Public Policy Polling is correct with its most recent numbers, Russo’s hunch is correct: too close to call.
Volunteer trainer Kelly Westlund recruited her brother to make hundreds of calls for Barrett over the weekend.
“It would be great to never need recalls. I wish more people would make the effort to be really informed about a candidate,” Westlund said. “But at what point do we say we can’t take any more of this budget cutting and breaking of unions? I wish we could trust those we elect.”
Neither Walker nor Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch nor any of their associates has been made available to UW Election Eye for one-on-one interviews.
Football fans call this strategy a prevent defense, but the president of the Wisconsin chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Athan Theoharis, called it arrogant.
“Walker has done something worse than lie to us. He’s killed our spirit,” the retired history professor said. “This is why we have the remedy of a recall.
“Just like a primary [election] helps to curb the influence of party bosses, and just like an initiative or referendum helps hold our legislators accountable, a recall rids us of awful governors like Walker.”
On the other hand, a primary election is a ramp-up to placing a person into – not out of – public office. An initiative is designed to proactively get something done by going around a state legislature.
Only a referendum is loosely analogous to a recall, but just to the extent it either affirms or rolls back a legislative action. But it doesn’t usually cost anywhere close to the $17 million this recall election is costing Wisconsin taxpayers.
Yet the fact this third gubernatorial recall in U.S. history is a huge drain on the public trough is irrelevant to legendary Northland College softball coach Steve Wammer.
“Walker chose to divide our state by making dramatic changes he never mentioned during his campaign. This recall is our dramatic response,” said Wammer, a married father of triplets.
“If a million voters feel so strongly as to sign a petition to remove our governor from office, then a recall is fair. [Walker] is the reason our state is so hopelessly divided. I don’t see that division ending as long as he’s our governor.”