Voters in three Wisconsin State Senate districts went to the polls Tuesday, and the results are more good news for progressives. In a 38-point victory, Democratic State Senator Dave Hansen fought off a recall attempt – while Republicans held primaries in two other districts. But the bigger story here was turnout (compared with the Democratic primaries last week), and it’s clear we have a glaring “enthusiasm gap” that has galvanized Democratic voters. Meanwhile, Republicans are so concerned about what will happen on August 9th – when six GOP state senators are subject to recall – that they have gone full speed ahead to pass a hyper-partisan gerrymandered map, while they still control the legislature.
In the aftermath of Governor Scott Walker’s war on working people, nine Wisconsin State Senators – three Democrats, and six Republicans – are now subject to a recall. Democrats must net at least three seats to win back control of the upper chamber. Tuesday night, they defended Senator Dave Hansen’s Green Bay district from Republican assault – whereas the other races all had competing primary elections.
But the bigger story is to compare the turnout in Tuesday night’s two Republican primaries – with the turnout in last week’s six Democratic primaries. In the Republican contests, only 9,000 people voted in one contest – and about 19,000 in the other. Meanwhile, the average turnout in the Democratic primaries (where six real Democrats crushed “fake” Democrats who were there to prolong the process), turnout averaged about 35,000 voters.
“The Republicans are clearly lagging behind the Democrats in voter intensity,” said Steve Singsier at Daily Kos last night. “That could speak well for Democratic chances next month to reclaim the state Senate.” As progressives are painfully aware, Democrats lost in 2010 because of a huge “enthusiasm gap” to the Republican base.
But looking at the two Republican contests, it’s clear that the GOP has even more to worry about. In both primaries, local elected officials lost to right-wing Tea Party candidates who will not fare well in the general. In the 22nd District, Kenosha County Vice Chairman Fred Ekornaas lost to attorney Jonathan Steitz. And in the 12th, Lincoln County Supervisor Robert Lussow lost to Republican activist Kim Simac – who writes Tea Party children’s books, such as “With My Rifle By My Side: A Second Amendment Lesson.” Just like Republicans lost their opportunity to take back the U.S. Senate because they nominated nutcases, they may have the same problem here.
With Hansen’s victory, Democrats are scoring 1-0 in the nine recall elections. In three weeks, on August 9th, they will challenge the six GOP incumbents in general elections. You can donate money, go to Wisconsin and volunteer for these candidates or even phone-bank from your home to make a difference in these races. If Democrats can take back the State Senate, not only will Governor Walker be next – but it will send shock waves throughout the country by letting right-wing politicians know there are serious consequences to attacking teachers, firefighters, nurses and other public employees.
And Republicans are already hearing the message loud and clear. That’s why the GOP State Senate pushed through an ultra-partisan redistricting map Tuesday – in order to gerrymander the districts for the next ten years. At taxpayer expense, they paid a Republican political firm to draw up the lines – and submitted to the legislature with little public debate. “We’ve had ten days to look at something that is going to impact the next ten years,” complained Democratic Senator Chris Larson added. “This is the only day we’re here, in special session, and the only reason is to lock in power.”
Hopefully, there may be legal efforts to challenge this power grab.