MADISON — Lest we forget, Gov. Scott Walker is not the only public figure in Wisconsin potentially headed to the political gallows.
Joining the Republican governor in Tuesday’s recall election are three incumbent state senators — all Republicans — who are facing the voters after a challenge from Democratic opponents.
Meanwhile, a fourth state Senate district seat will be filled in a special election. The seat is vacant but was held by a Republican who resigned for personal reasons after the recall petitions came out.
Walker is the third governor in U.S. history to face recall, so his race against Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett understandably gets most of the media attention.
That would have been the case even if Walker had not become a polarizing national figure over the past 16 months, since passing collective bargaining reforms.
Unions hope to quash the reforms contained in Act 10 by defeating him Tuesday, while conservatives hope to use the legislation as model for reform in other states.
Democrats need to capture one of the four races Tuesday to take the majority in the Senate, at least until the general election in November.
Of the four, the most interesting to watch—and the most expensive—is the battle between state Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, and John Lehman, D-Racine, who held that seat until 2010.
More than $1.1 million, from outside sources alone, has been spent on that campaign, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a nonprofit that tracks spending on elections in the state,
"When you combine that with the money being spent by the campaigns directly, it will probably top $2 million," said Mike McCabe, the group’s executive director.
Polling suggests Lehman is the Democrats’ best chance to win back control of the state Senate, said John McAdams, a professor of political science at Marquette University in Milwaukee.
In a toss-up district, the top of the ticket could determine the outcome, he said.
"I would be inclined to say that since Walker is up in the polls, probably Van Wanggaard would be considered the favorite,” McAdams said. “But everything is a referendum on Walker.”
The other races are:
- In the 13th District, incumbent state Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Dodge, faces Democratic challenger Lori Compas.
- In the 23rd District, incumbent state Sen. Terry Moulton, R-Chippewa, faces Democratic challenger Kristin Dexter.
- In the 29th District, an vacant seat will be contested by Republican Jerry Petrowski and Democrat Donna Seidel.