Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election
|Results by county|
|Elections in Wisconsin|
The 2012 Wisconsin gubernatorial election was a recall election to elect the governor and lieutenant governor of Wisconsin. It resulted in voters re-electing incumbent Republican Governor Scott Walker over the Democratic candidate Tom Barrett by a slightly larger margin than he had in 2010, in which Walker had also faced and defeated Barrett two years earlier. Most Democrats opposed Walker's agenda, particularly his limiting of collective bargaining rights for state employees and they collected over 900,000 signatures to initiate the recall election process. There was also a recall for Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch. She won her race, defeating Democrat Mahlon Mitchell, and making her the first lieutenant governor to run in and survive a recall.
The Democratic primary took place on May 8. The recall election was held June 5 with Walker defeating Barrett. Walker is thus the first U.S. governor to continue in office after facing a recall election.
Four state senate recall elections took place the same day as the gubernatorial recall elections, resulting in two wins by Republican incumbents, one open seat win by a Republican, and one win by a Democratic challenger, giving Democrats control of the state Senate.
The recall election was just the third gubernatorial recall election in U.S. history and the only one in which the incumbent was not defeated. The other governors who were subject to a recall election were Lynn Frazier of North Dakota (1921) and Gray Davis of California (2003). Frazier and Davis were each defeated in their respective recall elections.
Voter turnout in the election was 57.8 percent, the highest for a gubernatorial election not on a presidential ballot in Wisconsin history. The election was widely covered on national television. Many political pundits[who?] felt that this election would show the direction that the country was leaning for the 2012 elections.
- 1 Background
- 2 Controversy over recall petitions signed by Wisconsin judges and journalists
- 3 Costs
- 4 Republican primary
- 5 Democratic primary
- 6 Candidates
- 7 Campaign
- 8 Debates
- 9 Opinion polls
- 10 Results
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 External links
Pre-certification recall campaign
Incumbent Republican Governor Scott Walker faced a recall effort beginning in November 2011. After the contentious collective bargaining dispute, Walker's disapproval ratings varied between 50 and 51% while his approval ratings varied between 47% and 49% in 2011.
Wisconsin law made Walker ineligible for recall until at least January 3, 2012, one year after he first took office, and the Wisconsin Democratic Party called it a "priority" to remove him from office.
In the first half of 2011, Walker raised more than $2,500,000 from supporters, while public-sector unions within the state raised $17.6 million from state and national public-sector unions in the same time period to fund the recall effort. Walker raised $5.1 million in the second half of 2011 to battle his recall, "about half of it from out of state." The effort to recall Walker officially began on November 15, 2011.
In less than half of the allotted time (60 days) to collect signatures, recall organizers report collecting more than 500,000 signatures, leaving roughly one month left to collect the remaining 40,000 signatures needed to force a recall vote. On January 17, 2012, United Wisconsin, the coalition which spearheaded the recall effort, along with the Democratic Party, said that one million signatures were collected, which far exceeded the 540,208 needed, and amounted to 23 percent of the state's eligible voters, 46 percent of the total votes cast in the 2010 gubernatorial election and just shy of the 1.1 million votes earned by Walker.
On January 25, 2012, a poll released by the Marquette University Law School revealed that Walker would win a recall election against potential candidates Tom Barrett, Kathleen Falk, David Obey or Tim Cullen. This compared to a poll released by Public Policy Polling in October 2011 which also showed Walker would win a recall election against Barrett, Falk, Peter Barca, Steve Kagen or Ron Kind. The poll also showed that more people opposed (49%) than supported (48%) the recall effort.
In February, Walker's campaign made an additional request for more time for the petition signatures to be verified, stating that between 10–20% of the signatures reviewed to that point should not be counted. Democrats argued that even if 20% of the signatures were not counted, they still had 300,000 more than the required number needed to initiate the recall. Democratic Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski argued Walker was just "delaying the inevitable". And by not being in a recall election, Walker was able to collect unlimited campaign donations because normal campaign fundraising limits do not apply until an election is ordered. On February 17, 2012, Dane County judge Richard Niess denied Walker's request for additional time.
In March, Milwaukee city officials asked Milwaukee Public Schools to contribute nearly $10 million more to the pension plan because of financial market downturns. The teachers union, school board and the superintendent asked the Legislature for the opportunity to negotiate to reduce costs. Milwaukee schools didn't take part in a 90-day window that had since closed, which allowed unions and municipal employees to make contract adjustments. The Assembly and Senate agreed to allow Milwaukee schools to reopen negotiations for compensation or fringe-benefit concessions without nullifying existing union contracts. The measure giving them 90 days passed the Assembly and Senate. Gov. Scott Walker supports the measure. Other teachers' unions asked Milwaukee to withdraw its request, saying it would give Walker a political advantage in the recall election.
On March 29, 2012, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board released its final signature counts for the Walker recall petition. The GAB reported that 931,053 signatures were officially turned in, although the proponents had stated that approximately one million signatures were collected. Of that number, 26,114 were struck by GAB staff for various reasons and an additional 4,001 duplicates were struck. The final total certified by the GAB was 900,938 signatures.
Controversy over recall petitions signed by Wisconsin judges and journalists
Twenty-nine circuit court judges in Wisconsin signed recall petitions against Gov. Scott Walker, according to a Gannett Wisconsin Media analysis. Among the signers was Dane County Judge David Flanagan, who was scrutinized after issuing a temporary restraining order March 6 against a Walker-backed voter ID law without disclosing his support of the recall. None of the state's sixteen appeals court judges or seven Supreme Court justices signed the recall petition. The state Supreme Court issued an advisory opinion in 2001 saying judges are allowed to sign nominating petitions as long as the petition language only supports putting the candidate on the ballot and does not imply an endorsement. The Landmark Legal Foundation requested an investigation to the Wisconsin Judicial Commission regarding allegations of misconduct by the judges in question. It was later learned that 25 journalists at Gannett had also signed the recall petition. The newspaper group revealed the signatures in the interest of being as open as possible. Genia Lovett, representative for the organization, stated that journalists have a right to hold opinions but must protect their news organization's credibility.
Other media organizations had staff who signed the recall petition. Rob Starbuck, the morning news anchor for Madison, Wisconsin television station WISC-TV, signed the Walker recall petition. The station stated that the signing was in violation of the station's policy for newsroom employees. Television stations WISN, WTMJ, WITI, WDJT and radio station WTMJ in Milwaukee discovered that some staff members signed petitions to recall Walker. Some employees at WTMJ claimed signing the recall petition was not a political act, but, rather, similar to casting a vote. WTMJ stated it did not agree and indicated they would take measures to make sure their reporting is fair and balanced and to ensure no future similar controversies. The WITI television journalist who had signed the petition was reassigned and prohibited from covering Walker-related stories. 
The need for a recall election and the potential waste of taxpayer money has also drawn criticism. An estimate provided by the state Government Accountability Board shows a cost of $9 million for a statewide election. Since a primary election was also conducted for this race, the total price is estimated to be around $18 million.
The recall election was the most expensive election in Wisconsin history. According to the advocacy group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, candidates and outside groups spent more than $80 million in the governor's recall race. This compares to $37.4 million spent on the 2010 Wisconsin gubernatorial election.
According to USA Today, much of Walker's $30 million in contributions came from outside the state with much of Barrett's spending of about $4 million directly coming from Wisconsin contributors plus another $20 million from labor unions. Kathleen Falk, who was defeated by Barrett in the Democratic primary raised about $5.2 million from public-sector unions inside and outside the state. The cost of the recall election to Wisconsin taxpayers was $18 million.
- Scott Walker, incumbent governor and former Milwaukee County executive
- Arthur Kohl-Riggs (political activist)
|Republican primary results|
- Tom Barrett, Milwaukee mayor and former U.S. representative
- Kathleen Falk, former Dane County executive
- Gladys Huber, political activist
- Douglas La Follette, Wisconsin Secretary of State
- Kathleen Vinehout, Wisconsin state senator
The following people were subject to significant rumor or speculation that they would run, but ultimately decided not to be candidates in the recall election.
- Peter W. Barca, Wisconsin State Assembly Minority Leader
- Tim Cullen, Wisconsin State Senator
- Jon Erpenbach, Wisconsin State Senator
- Russ Feingold, former U.S. senator
- Ron Kind, U.S. representative
- David Obey, former U.S. Representative
|Marquette University||April 26–29, 2012||451||± 4%||48%||21%||8%||6%||19%|
|Public Policy Polling||April 13–15, 2012||810||± 3.4%||38%||24%||9%||6%||22%|
|Marquette University||March 22–25, 2012||373||± 5.1%||—||54%||15%||12%||19%|
|Public Policy Polling||February 23–26, 2012||425||45%||18%||14%||6%||17%|
|Democratic primary results|
|Democratic||Douglas La Follette||19,461||3%|
- Scott Walker (Republican), incumbent Governor (2011 – present)
- Tom Barrett (Democratic), mayor of Milwaukee (2004 – present)
- Nathan Graewin (Libertarian)
- Hariprasad Trivedi (Independent)
- Steven Zelinski (Write-in candidate)
In April, the Milwaukee Police Association and Milwaukee Professional Firefighters Association unions endorsed Governor Walker in the recall election. After Barrett won the Democratic primary, Walker stated, “As Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett enters the general election in his soon to be third statewide losing campaign, he will surely find that his record of raising taxes and promises to continue to do so will not resonate with voters." Barrett said after his primary victory "We cannot fix Wisconsin with Walker as governor, this election is not about fighting past battles, it is about moving forward together to create jobs and get our economy moving again."
- May 25: Sponsored by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association.
- May 31: Sponsored by WISN-TV, Wispolitics, Marquette University Law School, and hosted by Mike Gousha at Marquette University
|We Ask America||June 3, 2012||1,570 LV||± 2.5%||54%||42%||—||4%|
|Public Policy Polling||June 2–3, 2012||1,226 LV||± 2.8%||50%||47%||—||3%|
|Angus Reid Public Opinion||May 30 – June 2, 2012||507 DV||± 4.4%||53%||47%||—||—|
|Marquette University||May 23–26, 2012||600 LV||± 4.1%||52%||45%||—||3%|
|We Ask America||May 23, 2012||1,409 LV||± 2.61%||54%||42%||—||4%|
|St. Norbert College||May 17–22, 2012||406 LV||± 5%||50%||45%||—||5%|
|Reason-Rupe||May 14–18, 2012||609 LV||± 4%||50%||42%||—||6%|
|We Ask America||May 13, 2012||1,219 LV||± 2.81%||52%||43%||—||5%|
|Public Policy Polling||May 11–13, 2012||833 LV||± 3.4%||50%||45%||2%||3%|
|Marquette University||May 9–12, 2012||600 LV||± 4.1%||50%||44%||—||3%|
|Rasmussen Reports||May 9, 2012||500 LV||± 4.5%||50%||45%||2%||2%|
|Marquette University||April 26–29, 2012||705 RV||± 4%||46%||47%||3%||4%|
|Public Policy Polling||April 13–15, 2012||1,136||± 2.9%||50%||45%||2%||3%|
|Marquette University||March 22–25, 2012||707||± 3.7%||47%||45%||3%||5%|
|Public Policy Polling||February 23–26, 2012||900||± 3.3%||46%||49%||—||5%|
|Marquette University||January 19–22, 2012||701||± 3.7%||50%||44%||2%||4%|
|Public Policy Polling||October 20–23, 2011||1,170||± 2.9%||48%||46%||—||6%|
|Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election, 2012 results|
|Republican||Scott Walker (Incumbent)||1,335,585||53.1%|
|Wisconsin lieutenant governor recall election, 2012 results|
|Republican||Rebecca Kleefisch (Incumbent)||1,301,739||52.9%|
|Trivedi %||Trivedi votes||Voter turnout|
|Fond du Lac||Walker||63.9||29,060||35.4||16,105||0.7||309||58%|
Despite the protests which followed shortly after Walker's inauguration, Walker's margin of victory in the recall election increased by 1 percentage point compared to the previous election (6.8% vs 5.8%). Approximately 350,000 more people voted in the recall election than the 2010 election (2.5 million vs 2.15 million), making voter turnout in the recall 57.8%, the highest for a Wisconsin gubernatorial election not on a presidential ballot. The Republican bastions of Ozaukee, Waukesha, and Washington had the highest turnout in the state, at 74%, 72%, and 70% respectively. The Democratic bastion of Dane was not far behind, at 67% voter turnout. Menominee had the lowest turnout in the state, with only 28% voter turnout. Walker won 60 counties in the recall election, compared to 59 in 2010. 3 counties flipped from Walker to Barrett in the recall election (Colombia, Kenosha, and La Crosse), while 4 counties flipped from Barrett to Walker in the recall election (Crawford, Eau Claire, Green, and Trempealeau). Walker's margin of victory increased in 54 counties, while it decreased in 18 counties. Walker did better in most of northern Wisconsin, while Barrett did better in southeast Wisconsin and the most northern counties in the state. Twelve counties (Buffalo, Calumet, Clark, Door, Forest, Kewaunee, Outagamie, Pepin, Price, Rusk, Taylor, and Trempealeau) had swings towards Walker by 6 points or more compared to the last election, while 6 counties (Columbia, Dodge, Douglas, Kenosha, Racine, and Rock) had swings towards Barrett by 2 points or more. The Democratic strongholds of Dane County and Milwaukee County went more Barrett in the recall election, while the Republican strongholds of Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington went more Walker. Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted the similarities between the 2010 and 2012 elections while looking at the exit poll numbers. Walker won every demographic group he won in 2010, while Barrett did the same. Probably due to the stripping of collective bargaining from public employees, the percentage of voters identifying as union members increased from 26% of the vote in 2010 to 33% in 2012. Despite this, Walker actually won the union vote by a larger margin in 2012 than 2010 (38% vs 37%). 54% of voters approved of Walker's job performance, while 52% approved of Walker taking collective bargaining from public employee unions. Despite this, 51% of voters approved of public employee unions. Only 46% approved of the Wisconsin Democratic Party. 70% of voters believed recalls should never be used or should only be used in case of misconduct, while only 27% thought they should be allowed for any reason. Exit polling also showed a non-volatile electorate, with only 8% of voters deciding who to vote for in the last few days before the election.
- 2011 Wisconsin protests
- 2011 Wisconsin Act 10
- Wisconsin Supreme Court election, 2011
- Wisconsin Senate recall elections, 2011
- Wisconsin Senate recall elections, 2012
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- Database of Governor Walker and state senator recall petitions
- Election coverage at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
- Official gubernatorial campaign websites
- Official lieutenant governor campaign websites