Top 10 Weirdest Moments from the Wisconsin Recall

From face slaps to judicial chokeholds, the Wisconsin gubernatorial battle had it all.

Contrary to the hit-and-run coverage of national news networks, Wisconsin’s historic recall election did not begin when the polls opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday and end at around 8:40 p.m. with a stunningly fast and decisive victory by Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Viewers from California to Connecticut can be forgiven for thinking that the recall campaign just kind of popped up and then went away in a day. That’s certainly how much of national media—particularly television—covered it.
Not long after the major networks began calling the race, many switched to alternate programming. They packed up their big news trucks and their cameras, blinding lights and boom mics, and got out of dodge.

Those in the media who have covered this slog for more than 15 months know differently.

From allegations of choking and slapping among Wisconsin’s Supreme Court to pajama recall campaigns, it’s been one wild and unforgettable time in Wisconsin politics.

Before pushing this one to the Badger State history books, let's reflect on some of the weirder moments of the frenzied recall season—the kind of stuff that might make Hunter S. Thompson salivate.

Most of the moments come from liberals behaving badly—or at least oddly. But weirdness in Wisconsin politics knew no party affiliation.

There’s more but here’s Wisconsin Reporter's top 10.

10. Beer guy. Who could forget the story of Capitol protester and beverage tosser Miles Kristan, charged with disorderly conduct after dumping a beer on state Rep. Robin Vos’ head. Kristan, as the police report notes, screamed out some nasty invectives at the Burlington Republican, drenched him with some Wisconsin holy water, and fled. Pleading no contest to the charges, Kristan was ordered to pay court costs and Vos’ dry cleaning bill.

9. Sick notes. Scores of teachers protesting Act 10, the Walker bill — now law — that curbs collective bargaining for most public employees, got a helping hand to skip work from doctors who distributed sick notes at the capitol. It worked out as well as Juan Epstein’s “note from Epstein’s mother” on the 1970s sitcom Welcome Back Kotter. Many of the teachers got a kind of professional detention out of the deal, and the doctors picked up a few demerits of their own.

8. Fleeing 14. In the heat of battle over Act 10 in February 2011, 14 Democratic state senators took what they believed to be a courageous stand: They fled. To an undisclosed location. In Illinois. Supporters called them heroes. National news media certainly painted that picture. Conservatives saw them as cowards, derelict in their duty. The fleeing 14’s plan to stall a vote on the budget bill ultimately failed; the Republican-controlled Senate did some legal maneuvering and went on to vote without them.

7. Choke hold. It’s what people expect in their Supreme Court, really — allegations of choke holds, assaults, and name-calling from the august body. Liberal Justice Ann Walsh Bradley in June 2011 accused conservative Justice David Prosser of putting her in a choke hold, while Prosser denied the charges and his defenders said the judge was simply trying to defend himself against Bradley, who rushed toward him with raised fists. A special prosecutor threw out all charges, saying there wasn’t sufficient evidence. There were more than a few barbs on both sides about a cage match between the scuffling justices to settle the matter. The alleged incidents flowed out of Wisconsin’s bitterly divided political environment. Prosser, not long before, had survived a hotly contested Supreme Court race, and helped the conservative majority on the court uphold Walker’s collective-bargaining changes.

6. To error is Kathy. The April 2011 Supreme Court race pitting Prosser against liberal JoAnne Kloppenburg ended in confusion and anger when, two days after the election, Waukesha County clerk Kathy Nickolaus announced that thousands of votes hadn’t been counted. Kloppenburg had celebrated a 204-vote lead over the incumbent conservative, but Nickolaus then announced that 14,000 votes from the city of Brookfield had not been included. The votes gave Prosser the win, brought immediate demands for an investigation and spurred a prolonged recount. An independent investigator later ruled there was no malicious intent, that it was “human error.” But Nickolaus was asked to sit out overseeing the recent recall elections.

5. Pants on fire. Graeme Zielinski has never been accused of letting the facts get in the way of a good story, and he was called out again during the recall campaign by political fact checker, PolitiFact. Zielinski, spokesman for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, as is his wont, spread all kinds of nastiness through numerous tweets, accusing Walker’s campaign of footing the bill for the defense of a man accused of child enticement. The man, Brian Pierick, is peripherally connected to a two-year investigation into former Walker aides. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Zielinski’s former employer, ruled the spokesman’s rants as “Pants on Fire,” as far from the truth as they could be.

4. Barrett-slapped. Maybe for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett losing in Tuesday’s recall election to the same opponent who beat him in November 2010 by nearly the same percentage was a slap in the face. But one of his supporters took that feeling a little too far. Not pleased that Barrett conceded defeat within minutes after the Associated Press called the race for Walker, the woman slapped the mayor. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. She told Barrett she wanted to slap him on the face. He said he'd rather have a hug. When he bent down to do so, she clocked him. The candidate has said he will not press charges. He probably isn't much in the mood for a hug these days, though.

3. "Democracy is dead" guy. In an era of political hyperbole, the “Democracy is dead” guy takes the top prize. The Barrett campaign worker, perhaps understandably distraught over the Democrat’s defeat, went off the reservation with his rant about Wisconsin’s election. "If the people you see here behind me can’t get it done tonight, it’s done. Democracy’s dead,” he told CNN. Cheer up, Mr. Cranky Pants. Some 2.4 million people voted in the election, representing 58 percent turnout. That’s a record for a gubernatorial election. I’d say democracy is alive and well in the Badger State.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • CockGobbla||

    Didn't Michael Moore himself promise us a Worker's Paradise after the recall election?

    What gives? I want my utopia!!!!

  • Mike M.||

    Anyone who wants to see evidence of Obama's remarkably overinflated ago and how self-delusional the man is really needs to read this excellent piece of Edward Klein. I was blown away by the staggering levels of arrogance and narcissism, which is even higher that I thought it was.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Clinton, Kerry, Obama; all three were stunningly self-absorbed. There's a lesson in that for the Democrats, but I doubt they want to learn it.

  • Ben the Duck||

    When one of the historians brought up the difficulties that Lyndon Johnson, another wartime president, faced trying to wage a foreign military venture while implementing an ambitious domestic agenda, Mr. Obama grew testy. He implied that he was different, because he could prevail by the force of his personality.

    When you support electing a man to the highest office in the land, based on no more compelling a resume or reason than girlish giddiness over his fabulous mocha-tude -- I'm looking at you here, majority of Reason staff writers -- you wind up getting the douche you so richly deserve.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Dig that latter-career Mark Lenard haircut on Barry there. He's aging before our very eyes.

    He ought to get out of politics now, before it wrecks his health.

  • ||

    When one of the historians brought up the difficulties that Lyndon Johnson, another wartime president, faced trying to wage a foreign military venture while implementing an ambitious domestic agenda, Mr. Obama grew testy. He implied that he was different, because he could prevail by the force of his personality.

    Central to Johnson's control was "The Treatment", described by two journalists:

    The Treatment could last ten minutes or four hours. It came, enveloping its target, at the Johnson Ranch swimming pool, in one of Johnson's offices, in the Senate cloakroom, on the floor of the Senate itself — wherever Johnson might find a fellow Senator within his reach.
    Its tone could be supplication, accusation, cajolery, exuberance, scorn, tears, complaint and the hint of threat. It was all of these together. It ran the gamut of human emotions. Its velocity was breathtaking, and it was all in one direction. Interjections from the target were rare. Johnson anticipated them before they could be spoken. He moved in close, his face a scant millimeter from his target, his eyes widening and narrowing, his eyebrows rising and falling. From his pockets poured clippings, memos, statistics. Mimicry, humor, and the genius of analogy made The Treatment an almost hypnotic experience and rendered the target stunned and helpless.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    He was in an expansive mood as he tucked into his lamb chops and went around the table addressing each historian by name—Doris Kearns Goodwin, Michael Beschloss, Robert Caro, Robert Dallek, Douglas Brinkley, H. W. “Billam” Brands, David Kennedy, Kenneth Mack, and Garry Wills.

    Hardly a surprise that he invited a group of intellectuals guaranteed to kiss his ass.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Another nugget:

    He still loved making speeches to large, adoring crowds, but he complained to foreign leaders on the QT that he had to waste precious hours talking with “Congressmen from Palookaville.”

    The irony is that if he hadn't been such an arrogant fucking urbanite douchebag, getting his programs passed in Congress might have been a lot less contentious.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    And the hits keep coming:

    In the wake of the shellacking the Democrats took in the midterm elections in 2010, Mr. Obama held a second dinner with the historians, which was devoted to the question of how he could “reconnect with the public.”

    Asking a bunch of academics and how to reconnect with a public that they can barely conceal their contempt for was probably not the best idea.

  • Skip||

    Are those the same "historians" who declared the Obamessiah one of the Top 10 Best Presidents before his first term was halfway over?

  • John||

    Fiscal sanity is code for hating blacks, women, and poor people

    Nanni Domninic told me so.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/.....-your-desk

    Remember wing nuts liberals are the intelligent, thoughtful and tolerant ones.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    Need an Excuse to Smash Your Forehead on Your Desk?

    Love the title. Reminds me of something... I can't quite place it...

  • ||

    Never take me to National Review Online again.

  • John||

    It is called not hitting the link. And what are you a liberal? What are you afraid to read something you might disagree with? That is sorry Joshua. Just sorry.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    He's afraid of subliminal brainwashing turning him into a neo-con.

  • ||

    To my regret I was a neo-con when it mattered.

    Sad face.

    But I am pretty sure history has deprogrammed me permanently.

  • John||

    Either that or you just go which ever way the wind blows.

  • ||

    what are you a liberal? What are you afraid to read something you might disagree with?

    Yes I am a liberal. Of course by my definition you are as well.

    I actually agree with the sentiment...still Goldberg is smarmy and annoying as all fuck. For my conservative coverage I prefer The Daily Caller.

  • John||

    Why would you say that? He is a very good writer who has the courage to call liberals what they are.

    What are you afraid your liberal friends won't like you if you like Goldberg? Worried about losing your street creed?

    Tell you what Joshua, why don't you just post under the name Dave Weigel from now on in the name of truth in posting?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Actually, Josh, you're right about Goldberg, but hit this link and tell us which you'd prefer:

    http://open.salon.com/blog/dominic_nanni

    BTW, "nanny" fits this fuckstain to a tee.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Yikes, I just now read the dates. Shit, the fucker couldn't do more than two blog posts??

  • John||

    From a review of a biography of James Brown.

    (One of his most enduring—in fact only enduring—friendships was with, of all people, the wily and indestructible Southern politician Strom Thurmond.)

    http://www.city-journal.org/2012/bc0608ip.html

    James Brown and Strom Thurmond, now that is an odd couple.

  • John||

    http://dailycaller.com/2012/06.....garteners/

    Kindergarteners in Coney Island forced to sing Justin Bieber song in worst case of state sponsored child abuse seen in years.

  • ||

    To be fair, the Bieber song is more age appropriate. In fact, I was shocked when I learned the song wasn't written by a kindergartener.

  • wingnutx||

    We couldn't lose! We didn't lose!

    That's my favorite video so far.

  • CockGobbla||

    I love the hectoring of the CNN bus driver. A black laborer being bothered by two, white college students, priceless.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    A black laborer being bothered by two, white college students, priceless.

    Why not, that has been Michael Moore's whole shtick from the beginning. All I remember about Roger and Me is his fat ass harassing secretaries.

  • ||

    Who the hell names their kid 'Thistle Petersen'?

  • wingnutx||

    If her parents had any foresight they would have gone with "Pippi Bongstocking".

  • CockGobbla||

    If I were her parent, I'd want to die.

  • wingnutx||

    Hey, she has a website!

    Radical Music By Thistle

  • wingnutx||

    “Thistle will send shivers down your spine with empowering reminders of the work and play necessary for social transformation.”

    – Froseph, anarcho folk musician and Crimethinc activist based out of Winona, MN

  • fish||

    Pretentiousness thy name is Froseph!

  • Mint Berry Crunch||

    Maybe the parents were thistle sifters.

    They have a sieve of sifted thistles, and a sieve of unsifted thistles.

    Ah crap, her website says her real name is Kristine. Geoffrey Rush is still awesome though.

  • Anacreon||

    Awesome! Burst out loud laughing.

  • Voros McCracken||

    "You ask me what's next?"

    My best guess is Clozapine.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    With winners like that on his side, Barrett couldn't lose.

  • ||

    Wow, that is a gaggle of stupid.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Stewart got some Fox News hate in before going after MSNBC's coverage, but at least he went after MSNBC in a rare event. I suppose it was just too over the top ridiculous to ignore.

  • John||

    Maybe I am being optimistic. But I look at things like the mayor of Newark calling shenanigans on Obama's attack on Bain Capital, Ed Rendell admitting that Hillary would have been a better choice in 08, Lanny Davis finally saying the obvious about how awful Obama's staff is, and Bubba Clinton's slipping and telling the truth about the current state of the economy. And I have to wonder if maybe there are actually a few adults in the Democratic Party who have grown tired of this insanity. When the Obama lovers at MSNBC are so embarrassing that even Jon Stewart can't ignore them anymore, you wonder if maybe we have reached some kind of tipping point and maybe the Democratic party will recover some of its sanity.

  • ThatSkepticGuy||

    "and maybe the Democratic party will recover some of its sanity."

    You can't "recover" that which was never present.

  • ||

    Bill Clinton is pure slime....but he was sane slime.

  • CockGobbla||

    Having access to any number of fabulous pussies, tits, and the tight, bleached assholes, and he chose. . .Monica Lewinsky.

  • ||

    A Moby Dick complex is not insanity.

    As fertility idols show:

    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-YtIC.....lt+NWO.jpg

    The desire to poke fatty is in the range of a normal human mental state.

    Plus he was POTUS. I think his area of opportunity was diminished a bit due to closer public scrutiny.

    Also His rogues gallery is not all that bad:

    http://whatreallyhappened.com/.....mommy.html

    It simply appears he does not have a a very discriminating pallet.

    Lots of wiggle room here.

  • CockGobbla||

    The only "sane" way to fuck Paula Jones is in the asshole so you don't have to look at her face.

  • Killazontherun||

    Skinny girls with butter faces, it's kind of a thing.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    I am more and more convinced that what drove the impeachment furor was the unarticulated sense that the President of the United States should have better taste in mistresses. He isn't supposed to be banging the help.

  • Killazontherun||

    His staff kept the top shelf pussy away from him. Bill being heterosexual married to a Frigidaire did what he had to do.

  • PapayaSF||

    1) What makes you think he chose *only* Monica Lewinsky?

    2) Have you ever seen a picture of Clinton's mom when she was younger? Oedipus complex. (Note: source website is wacky, but I'm pretty sure the pic is real.)

  • Stephdumas||

    Add to the list, Don Rickles who jabs Obama with a janitor joke.
    http://www.breitbart.com/Big-H.....nitor-joke

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Have you ever seen any of the old Dean Martin roasts with Rickles? Holy shit, that man did not hold back at all. There was one for Sammy Davis, Jr. with Wilt Chamberlain at the roaster's table--I thought Wilt was going to get up and hulk out when Rickles started busting on him.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    If more Conservative talkers and lower level politicos could muster similar courage to go after the Republican Party and some of its shananigans, we might get somewhere as a country.

  • John||

    If more Conservative talkers and lower level politicos could muster similar courage to go after the Republican Party and some of its shananigans,

    You clearly don't read the conservative blogsphere or don't pay any attention when you do. They brutalize the Republican establishment on a regular basis. If no one is calling shananigans on the Republicans, why exactly are Richard Lugar and Bob Bennett now spending more time with their families?

    That is just not true. There are conservatives all over calling bullshit on the Republicans.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The ones I hear are the ones complaining that Republicans aren't acting socon enough. I don't hear too many talking about true small government ideas, but maybe I am missing it when they do.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Goalposts on the move...

    You're right about the direction being iffy, but at least it's headed in the general area of lesser government. John's right you are wilfully ignoring great Tea Party success against establishmentarian assholes.

  • Cytotoxic||

    This is why I want Obama to lose. So that pro-business centrists in the Democrat Party can be re-empowered. Yes they are statist assholes they are still far less toxic that what's in play today.

  • CockGobbla||

    Meh, I've noticed Jon Stewart fairly calling out nutshit liberal pundits, I've always given him credit for it. But I still sense a tone of reluctancy in his delivery, almost like he wishes he could ignore the liberals so he could bash the conservatives some more.

  • CockGobbla||

    Of course, maybe what I sense is the dirtbag capitalist in him all along. "Can't stray away too far from the 'Crazy Conservative Loons' narrative; mustn't upset the core demographic of 16-32 years olds who are naive enough to regard me as a saintly truth-seeker of glorious liberalism."

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Please, we're talking about a man who deigned to put his dick inside Janeane Garofalo.

  • Ben the Duck||

    *Projectile vomits, violently.*

    Again.

    And AGAIN.

  • fish||

    Do we have any evidence that he retrieved it?

  • WWNGD?||

    Wait... Jon Stewart put his wee-wee in Janeane?

  • ThatSkepticGuy||

    It never struck me as anything more than him throwing out a couple of bones to keep the hounds at bay in order to aloft the fairy tale that he's some sort of bipartisan anti-pundit.

  • Drake||

    Sure he's reluctant - the Democrats are so stupid and so easy to bash. He knows his funniest and most devastating pieces are like this one. He doesn't want to make it a habit.

    MSB-sad, I will be using.

  • ||

    Rick Santorum looks to rally "principled conservatives" to fight off attempts by Ron Paul supporters to influence the party platform. The frothy shit is also angling for a prime time speaking slot.

  • John||

    Being principled how? Stabbing other Republicans in the back to get a crap weasel like Arlan Spector re-elected.

  • wingnutx||

  • ||

    They are right the second time. It will not tell us about the 2012 race.

    I still think Romney will win but Wisconsin will vote Obama come November.

    In the long run though public unions are fucked....and by fucked they will still get better benefits and higher wages then their private sector counterparts...just the gap will tighten a bit.

  • VG Zaytsev||

  • joy||

    Before pushing this one to the Badger State history books, let's reflect on some of the weirder moments of the frenzied recall season—the kind of stuff that might make Hunter S. http://www.zonnebrilinnl.com/z.....-3_12.html Thompson salivate.

  • Sevo||

    Fuck you.

  • celine luggage bags||

    Thanks so much for taking the time to compile these videos

  • Sevo||

    Fuck you, too.

  • ||

    7. Choke hold. It’s what people expect in their Supreme Court, really — allegations of choke holds, assaults, and name-calling from the august body. Liberal Justice Ann Walsh Bradley in June 2011 accused conservative Justice David Prosser of putting her in a choke hold, while Prosser denied the charges and his defenders said the judge was simply trying to defend himself against Bradley, who rushed toward him with raised fists. A special prosecutor threw out all charges, saying there wasn’t sufficient evidence. There were more than a few barbs on both sides about a cage match between the scuffling justices to settle the matter. The alleged incidents flowed out of Wisconsin’s bitterly divided political environment. Prosser, not http://www.maillotfr.com/maill.....-3_21.html long before, had survived a hotly contested Supreme Court race, and helped the conservative majority on the court uphold Walker’s collective-bargaining changes.

  • feelinglaishuling||

    They brutalize the Republican establishment on a regular basis. If no one is calling shananigans on the Republicans, why exactly are Richard Lugar and Bob Bennett now spending more time with their families?

    tee shirt pas cher

  • jason||

    He is a bright star and he is doing really great work,

  • منتدى العراق||

    thanks you

  • zamoracarl711||

    what Brian explained I'm impressed that a stay at home mom able to earn $4483 in four weeks on the computer. have you read this website makecash16Com

  • Taco||

    The democracy is dead dude complained about being outspent 4 to 1, without a hint of any sense of irony, while wearing a Boston Red Sox cap. Love it.

  • air max||

    C'est la preuve du nombre de couleurs et de types peuvent être bought.Though il semble y avoir des sélections infinies avec référence à la conception, vous pourrez découvrir quelques traits de définir qui déterminent la chaussure comme une marque. Le lien Velcro qui est attaché à chacune des mi-haut et de haut-tops est une affirmation de sa propre initiative. La sangle est souvent laissée en suspens vers le côté ou l'intérieur d'une étroite limitée selon le type ou le goût véritablement souhaitez afficher. Aussi il ya habituellement un médaillon qui est attaché au-dessus des lacets dans le fond. Votre médaillon porte l'inscription "AF-1" aussi "82". Le 82 peut être affichée à garder à l'esprit la première année civile de la sneaker a été créé et le AF-1 indique que les versions de la Force aérienne.

  • tee shirt pas cher||

    A ceux que l'austérité empêche de fréquenter les tables de la ville, la cuisine italienne offre de multiples solutions à domicile.

  • free running shoes||

    Whatever the variety of shoe, or perhaps the company tradition, showed that Nike could be the superior on the planet.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement