MADISON, Wis. - One of the GOP state senators under recall here, Pam Galloway (claiming a family health problem) resigned this weekend, wiping out the Republican majority and leaving that chamber split 16-16.
She was widely expected to lose the recall election she was facing.
She was one of four Republicans currently being recalled after the labor movement and its allies collected more than a million signatures to unseat the four, along with the state's radical right governor, Scott Walker. The resignation dashes Walker's hope to ram through a slew of right-wing anti-labor measures before the June 5 date now set for the recall elections.
The recall for Galloway's seat will go ahead as scheduled, though Republicans will have to find a new candidate for what is now a special election for an open seat. Her name will not appear on the ballot because, under state rules, she resigned early enough to prevent it from having to be on the ballot.
Democrats expect to win her seat in the recall election because she had barely squeaked into office in the traditionally Democratic Wausau District in the 2010 Republican wave. She was being challenged for the seat she vacated by the assistant state Assembly Minority leader, Donna Seidel.
The resignation came only four days after the state Accountability Board, which oversees elections in the state, approved the recall petitions against her and three other Republican state senators who backed Walker's attack on collective bargaining rights a year ago.
Under the new finalized timeline primaries will be held May 8 with the general recall elections held on June 5 - the same dates as the recall elections against Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.
If there are no primaries for any particular seat, then the May 8 date will be the general election date for that district.
In the prior set of recalls during which Democrats toppled two of Walker's supporters, Republicans tried to confuse things by entering people to run against the Democratic challengers in the primaries. The Democrats then had to defeat Republicans masquerading as Democrats in a primary before they could go on to battle with the Republicans they were trying to unseat in a general election. Despite this they were able to take back two seats in the chamber from the GOP.
Walker's right wing agenda is stymied because his continuing control of the House is not enough to pass any legislation. The right wingers were hoping to pass bills attacking womens' health, privatizing public lands and giving unfettered access to some of those lands to big mining corporations. The lieutenant governor in Wisconsin, unlike in some other states, does not have a tie-breaking vote.
Walker is actually more than just stymied, even if he and all the Republicans survive their recalls. One of the GOP senators in the 16-16 lineup, Dale Schultz, had already brought the Senate to tie votes when he periodically broke with Walker.
He did so on several recent issues, including an attempt by Walker to use newly drawn district lines favorable to Republicans in the recall elections. There are a number of issues, then, on which Democrats can prevail with the current 16-16 split, even before the recalls.