Polls point to a win for Wisconsin governor Scott Walker in tomorrow's recall election, but internal Republican polling shows there's a very good chance that the Wisconsin GOP will lose control of the state senate on the same day.
It would be a very small consolation prize for Democrats to lose to Walker — in what many have called the second most important election in 2012 – but win control of the senate. Not only is the Walker recall infinitely more important than control of the state senate, Republicans will have an excellent shot of reclaiming the senate in the November elections if they lose it tomorrow.
Four GOP state senators are facing recall elections on June 5, and Democrats will have to win just one race to wrest control of the state's upper chamber from Republicans, who hold a 17-16 majority. The race will likely determine control the senate is district 21, a seat held by Van Wanggaard. Sources tell THE WEEKLY STANDARD that a recent internal polling has shown Wanggaard under 50 percent and trailing his Democratic opponent by single digits. A Public Policy Polling survey conducted in April had Wanggaard leading his Democratic opponent Jon Lehman 48 percent to 46 percent.
The district held by Wanggaard spans Racine and Kenosha counties, which have a strong union presence and a history of throwing out incumbents at a rapid rate. "They recalled the senator in the mid-90s before the recalls became cool," says one GOP source. The school districts of Racine and Kenosha have not been able to take advantage of Scott Walker's collective bargaining reforms because the districts are operating under contracts inked prior to passage of the law, so these districts have had a more difficult time balancing their budgets.
Republicans look like they're in a much stronger position in the three other state senate races. The only other race that looks competitive is the Chippewa Falls-based seat held by Terry Moulton. Internal Republican polling has shown a fairly tight race, but Moulton has consistently registered support at or above 50 percent. Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald has consistently lead by double digits, and GOP candidate Jerry Petrowski has been ahead by the high single digits, according to Republican polling.
But even if Republicans lose control of the state senate on June 5, they will likely take it back on November 6. The GOP will have two prime state senate pick-up opportunities, and the Democrats will have none. Four Republican senators up in November survived recall efforts last August. And this fall an electoral map redistricted by Walker and Republicans in the legislature will take effect. The GOP will be gunning for the seat of retiring Democratic state senator Jim Holperin, whose Republican-leaning district has become more Republican under redistricting. Republicans will also have a good shot of winning the seat lost by Randy Hopper in the August 2011 recalls. The embattled Hopper narrowly lost despite the fact that he abandoned his wife for one of his twenty-something staffers.
And when the district held by Wanggaard is up for grabs again in 2014, Republicans will almost certainly win it. Under redistricting, "Walker would have won the new district by 23 points instead of nine." the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Craig Gilbert has reported.
For Democrats to have any hope of undoing Scott Walker's reforms, they'll need to win both houses of the legislature and the governor's seat. If senate Democrats refuse to pass a budget, it will simply lead to a "permanent Scott Walker budget," as Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett has acknowledged. "Wisconsin is different from the federal government and Minnesota and other states," Barrett said in April. "If there is no budget, we will have a permanent Scott Walker budget."