WAUKESHA, Wisc. – Sixteen months and more than 63 million advertising dollars later, Republican Scott Walker has become the first incumbent governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election, defeating Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett by a 53% to 46% margin – slightly larger than his 52% to 46% win over Barrett the first time around in 2010.
Even before the capital city of Madison and the state’s largest city, Milwaukee, had announced all of their precinct totals, Walker had the votes to remain the most polarizing governor in America.
As Wisconsin’s top political leader, he has now survived a withering attack from unions and other Democrat friendly organizations to stay in the spotlight as both Tea Party darling and future presidential hopeful.
“This is our night,” Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas told me over the sustained cheering of a few thousand Tea Partiers near Walker’s hometown of Wauwatosa. “Wisconsin sends a message tonight that we want solid fiscal management in our state.”
Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch began her rousing speech with this eye-poking gem: “Now this is what democracy looks like!” (This had been Barrett’s opening line at every stop along the campaign trail.)
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald also held on to his post despite a very unpopular middle-of-the-night legislative maneuver that broke the back of collective bargaining in this state. It was called Act 10 and led to 14 Democratic State Senators disappearing into Illinois for about a month to avoid passage of the highly volatile legislation.
Three of the four recalled Republican State Senators are already projected winners and presumed safe in their seats in Madison.
A North Dakota governor was successfully recalled early in the 20th century and California’s Gray Davis was given the boot in favor of Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003.