Wisconsin workers end Walker control of Senate

Although he held onto his seat, Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker lost control of the state Senate in Tuesday’s recall election, as Democratic former  state Sen. John Lehman defeated Republican state Sen. Van Wanggaard in the Racine area. The win gives Democrats a 17-16 majority in the state Senate.

With 100 percent of precincts counted, Lehman had a 51 percent to 49 percent lead over Wanggaard. The GOP incumbent has nevertheless not conceded and has indicated he may seek a recount. Losers in Wisconsin have three days to request such an action.

“By electing a Democratic Senate, the people of Wisconsin have opened the door to responsible dialogue and, if needed, provided a bulwark against continued political extremism and restored checks and balances to the Wisconsin legislature,” said state Senate Democratic Leader Mark Miller. He will be taking over leadership of the Senate and appointing new chairs to all of its committees.

Control of the Senate is seen as critical for working people in Wisconsin because Walker would have been able to call special sessions this summer to turn Wisconsin into a right-to-work (for less) state and to strip environmental protection laws affecting mining operations in the northern part of the state. Both were projects right-wingers hoped could be rammed through before the November elections.

In a press conference this morning, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said that disappointment by labor and its allies over the results in the gubernatorial recall by no means signals the end of resistance to the right wing’s political agenda in Wisconsin or elsewhere.

“If Walker had been recalled it would not have been the end of the movement for and the fight for economic justice,” Trumka said, “just as it was not the end of that movement when we won a referendum in Ohio restoring collective bargaining rights taken away by that governor.”

Trumka said politicians seeking to curb workers’ rights have far less reason to celebrate Tuesday’s election results in Wisconsin than many in the media would have the public believe.

“Would they like to have to go out and spend $50 million just to hold onto their seats and then, after that, lose control of a state Senate?'” he asked reporters.

Trumka said that one of the problems in Wisconsin was that many people did not support the idea of a recall election even in cases where they may have been opposed to attacks on collective bargaining.

“With the seven-to-one or better outspending by the right-wing PACs they were able to diffuse the issues to whether a recall is justified, to whether Walker’s opponents hurt children and to a whole host of other things,” said Trumka.

“In Ohio the issue was clearly collective bargaining rights and the measure to overturn the law that took away those rights. I wish the focus in Wisconsin had been more on those rights, but we learn and the movement of Wisconsin people that forced this election in the first place, the movement that successfully recalled three Republican state senators, is not going to go away.”

Trumka predicted that the attacks on the labor movement will continue in other states but that whoever is planning them is well aware now that “there will be consequences.”

“It is clear to everyone that the labor movement and its allies will stand up and fight. We will fight all the way through and during the 2012 elections. And after Election Day, you know what? We will continue to fight,” Trumka promised.

Photo: Scott Walker Watch


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik started as labor editor of the People's World in May, 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York. Along with being labor editor, Wojcik is a co-editor of peoplesworld.org.