RACINE — One year after Wisconsin’s contentious recall battle, the local and state Republican Party groups have reportedly quashed attempts at a repeat.
Today is the deadline to file papers to recall Sen. John Lehman, the only Democrat who successfully ousted his Republican incumbent competitor, Van Wanggaard, in the series of June 2012 recall elections that successfully reaffirmed Scott Walker’s position as governor.
Despite some rumblings of recall last June, nobody had filed papers against Lehman as of late Tuesday. Racine County GOP Chair Bill Folk says there’s a good reason for that.
“The reality is, we did not want to put our county through that,” Folk said. “... There was a lot of political pressure from the local party and the state party to put a squash to that.”
On the one hand, Folk said, after collecting signatures and filing papers, the actual recall election wouldn’t happen until spring of 2014, at which point the general election would be just months away. Additionally, he said, taxpayers would foot the bill for holding a recall election, and the local party would essentially have to fundraise twice in one year.
“That’s actually what we used quite a bit as leverage to get the talks to cease — the expense of the recall itself is so high,” he said.
The recall elections had many local clerks’ offices over budget even before the high-turnout presidential election in November.
Although today is the filing deadline for signatures to recall Lehman, Folk said he hasn’t heard of any plans to do so. Racine Taxed Enough Already (TEA) Party leader Nancy Milholland puts it more succinctly: “It’s not going to happen. No way, no-how.”
Aside from the fiscal impact, Milholland echoed Folk’s opinion that both voters and party volunteers have been drained by seemingly constant elections over the past few years. “The whole state’s on overload,” she said. “It wears you down — I don’t care if you’re Republican or Democrat.”
County Democratic Party Chair Jane Witt agrees that yet another election would hardly be welcome, but she still sees a purpose in pursuing recalls.
Even though Walker kept his seat, Witt said, “I don’t think (the recall) was a fruitless task. I think it brought people’s attention to the things that were going on in this state.”
Despite his loss, Wanggaard also has no regrets about the recall, saying, “I never wavered on my principles and my conservative background.”
Of his legislative replacement, Wanggaard said he believes Lehman’s “heart isn’t in” the job, and charged that following recently redrawn voting lines, Lehman has been “almost nonexistent” to his mostly new constituents.
“I’m out there and talking to people, and they’re wondering who their senator is,” said Wanggaard, who plans to officially announce his reelection bid in coming weeks. “I’m letting them know who their next senator is.”
For his part, Lehman said he’s been reaching out to new constituents in western Racine and Kenosha counties, and still cares deeply about his position, even if being in the minority party means he has less legislative clout.
Lehman said he wouldn’t comment on the prospects of running for reelection until the event gets closer.
A 2014 reelection victory could prove challenging for the veteran Democratic legislator. Although the most recently redrawn district lines were not in play during last year’s recall election, the newly shaped 21st Senate District is considered one of the most conservative electoral fields in the state.