Recall election turnout high
The WTMJ News Team and the Associated Press
GLENDALE - The summer of recall elections comes to one of its climactic days Tuesday morning with polls open until 8:00 p.m. across the state.
Turnout is high at several polling stations in the Milwaukee area, based on TODAY'S TMJ4 calls to polling stations.
Six Republican state senators were fighting for their jobs, and also to keep control of the State Senate.
If five Democratic challengers were to win their elections Tuesday, the Democratic Party would be guaranteed to take over control of the Senate even if two Republican recall challengers win their elections against Democratic incumbents on August 16th.
A third Democrat survived a recall attempt last month.
In the Milwaukee area, River Hills Republican incumbent Senator Alberta Darling was facing off against Whitefish Bay Democratic challenger and current State Representative Sandy Pasch on Tuesday in the District 8 recall election
The Wisconsin Democratic Party said that removing Darling would be "the crown jewel" of the recall elections.
Both Darling and Pasch spent their final campaign hours going door to door, trying to shore up votes before this unprecedented race.
Pasch said she wants to unseat Darling because of her support of the collective bargaining law and deep cuts to education.
"I'm concerned if we don't change the dicussion on education that it's going to be difficult to attract the best and the brightest," said Pasch.
"I'm very proud moving forward that our schools are secure now, except for Milwaukee. They choose not to use the tools, so they are having layoffs," explained Darling.
Turnout for the Darling-Pasch race was expected to be high, and after problems during the primary in Glendale, that city is making sure enough polling places would be open.
All five Glendale polling places were to be open, instead of just one during the primary election. That situation caused long lines and angry voters.
City officials did that to save money, but several complaints prompted change for the general election on Tuesday.
Voters hoped it would expedite the process.
"(I stood in line) probably 20 minutes, and normally it's much shorter," explained Bill Konrad, a voter from Glendale. "You're in and out in five minutes."
Voters were expected to show their identification, even though it was not required to vote during this recall election
Poll workers were trying to get voters familiar with the new voter ID law, which takes effect in 2012.
Other races for Tuesday included these GOP incumbents against Democratic challengers:
District 2: Incumbent Robert Cowles vs. Nancy Nusbaum
District 10: Incumbent Sheila Harsdorf vs. Shelly Moore
District 14: Incumbent Luther Olsen vs. Fred Clark
District 18: Incumbent Randy Hopper vs. Jessica King
District 32: Incumbent Dan Kapanke vs. Jennifer Shilling
These two races on Tuesday, August 16th include Democratic incumbents against Republican challengers:
District 12: Incumbent Jim Holperin vs. Kim Simac
District 22: Incumbent Robert Wirch vs. Jonathan Steitz
In some districts, turnout was expected to surpass 50 percent.
The races targeting incumbent Republicans morphed into a high-stakes political fight with national implications as tens of millions of dollars poured into the state, breaking spending records in the unprecedented recalls.
Until this year, there were only 20 attempts nationally since 1913 to recall lawmakers from office, just 13 of them successful.
If Republicans lose three or four seats on Tuesday, the balance of power in the Senate will rest on the outcome of the two Democratic races next week.
The stakes were clearly much larger than simply determining who has control of the state Senate. The elections figured to help determine whether the Republican revolution led by Walker will get a shot in the arm or a major setback. Both parties also were testing messaging ahead of the 2012 presidential race, in which Wisconsin could be an important swing state.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said it was "all in" to win the races, while a coalition of national unions spent millions on attack ads and other campaign activity to take seats from the Republicans. Conservative groups also spent millions.
It all amounted to a summer unlike any other in Wisconsin, with the unprecedented recalls the largest unified effort to kick incumbents out of office in history. More than $31 million was estimated to have been spent on the nine recall elections, rivaling the $37 million spent on last year's governor's race.
Republicans won control of both houses of the Legislature and the governor's office in the 2010 election just nine months ago.
Since January, the Legislature that had been passing Republican-backed bills in rapid succession and with great ease will likely grind to a halt if Democrats win back the Senate and are then able to block anything from clearing without a bipartisan agreement.
Any newly elected senator will take office within 15 days of the election, a brief window where Republican Senate leaders could call a lame duck session if they are about to lose majority control.