Everything You Need To Know About Today’s Election
After a long, hot summer filled with GOP dirty tricks, it’s finally election day in Wisconsin. Today, six of the pro-Gov. Scott Walker, anti-worker Republican state senators will face recall votes. Another recall election for two Democratic state senators is scheduled for next Tuesday.
Here’s the rundown of what you need to know about today’s election.
Here’s a brief look at the six GOP senators up for recall, via ThinkProgress’ Travis Waldron:
Sen. Dan Kapanke: The most vulnerable of the Republicans, Kapanke faces state Rep. Jennifer Shilling (D). Kapanke attracted the Wisconsinites’ ire for spreading multiple lies about the protesters that rallied outside the state capitol. First, Kapanke alleged that protesters had damaged his car, a claim Wisconsin police found to be false. Then, in a fundraising letter, he blamed protesters for $7.5 million in damages to the capitol building, another blatant falsehood. Realizing his unpopularity, Kapanke recently told supporters that he hoped public workers “are sleeping” through the recall elections.
Sen. Randy Hopper: Hopper, who no longer lives in his own district, faces former city councilwoman and Deputy Mayor Jessica King (D). After Kapanke, Hopper is the most vulnerable Republican, owing to revelations about hisalleged affair with a former staff member. Among Hopper’s biggest critics are his former maid and his estranged wife, who reportedly signed onto the petition to recall Hopper and indicated that she would contribute to his challenger’s campaign.
Sen. Sheila Harsdorf: Harsdorf, who has been in Wisconsin politics for more than two decades, faces schoolteacher Shelly Moore. Harsdorf recently co-sponsored a bill — modeled on legislation provided by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that provides pro-business model legislation to conservative lawmakers — that would reduce taxes on chewing tobacco. An outside group supporting her campaign, meanwhile, recently ran a campaign ad with a voice-over seemingly done by actor Morgan Freeman — prompting someone close to Freeman to contact Moore’s campaign to let it know he wasn’t a part of the ads.
Sen. Robert Cowles: Likely the safest of the six Republicans, Cowles is running against former mayor and county executive Nancy Nusbaum (D). The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in June that Cowles was, at first, opposed to Walker’s anti-union bill but voted for it after being threatened with a more conservative primary challenger. “I didn’t like this (bill) either,” Cowles allegedly told a prominent business leader in his district. “I didn’t like anything about the way it was done. But the governor’s office told us if we didn’t give them our support, they would run a tea party candidate against us.” Cowlesdisputed the claims, saying he was never threatened.
Sen. Luther Olsen: Olsen, who in 16 years has not faced a Democratic opponent, is up against state Rep. Fred Clark (D). Olsen co-sponsored the same ALEC-backed bill as Harsdorf and, like Cowles, initially seemed to oppose the Walker bill. “The concept is pretty radical,” Olsen said at the time. “It affects a lot of good working people.” Despite those concerns, however, Olsen ultimately voted for the bill.
Sen. Alberta Darling: Darling, who faces state Rep. Sandy Pasch (D), has seemingly insisted on making her recall campaign as tough as possible, calling Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) “a hero” and championing his Medicare-ending federal budget plan. As if that wasn’t enough, Darling decried Democratic efforts to raise taxes on the rich by telling a constituent that those who make more than $250,000 a year “aren’t wealthy people” — even though only 2 percent of Wisconsinites earn more than $200,000 annually. “We’re not interested in raising taxes on the quote ‘rich’,” Darling added.
Which Conservative Groups Are Trying to Keep the Democrats From Winning?
There are estimates that groups on both sides may spend as much as $30 million on the elections. Conservative groups are sparing no expense in their effort to protect the GOP incumbents. Here is a list of some of the outside conservative groups playing in the election:
- Club for Growth Wisconsin
- Americans for Prosperity, a Koch front group
- Citizens for a Strong America, another Koch front group
- The Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama (aka Tea Party Express aka Our Country Deserves Better PAC aka California-based GOP consultants)
- American Federation for Children, an education reform group backed by right-wing billionaire Dick Devos
- Wisconsin Family Action, an offshoot of the anti-gay Wisconsin Family Council
- Republican State Leadership Committee
- Wisconsin Manufacturing & Commerce
Which GOP Trick is the Dirtiest?
Given that the Republican Party of Wisconsin, Americans for Prosperity, and other Tea Party groups were caught red-handed engaging in an apparent voter suppression plot last year, it’s no surprise that dirty tricks have marred these important elections. A few of the dirty tricks employed to stop Democrats from winning:
- Fake candidates: The state GOP recruited “fake Democrats” to run in order to force the Democratic challengers to face primaries. This caused Democrats and their allies to waste time and money on turning out people to the primaries. By pushing back the real election by a month, it afforded Walker and his allies another month of unified control to push through their extreme agenda and allowed the Republican candidates and their allies to fundraise and organize for an additional month. The fake primaries also came at a very real cost to the government, which was forced to pay to hold an extraneous election.
- Misleading Fliers: Americans for Prosperity mailed fake absentee ballots to Democrats in at least two Wisconsin state Senate recall districts with instructions to return the paperwork after the actual election date. The “Absentee Ballot Application Processing Center” P.O. Box listed on the last page of the AFP mailer is registered to the Wisconsin Family Action PAC, a right-wing advocacy group, not an election board or actual absentee ballot processing center for the state of Wisconsin.
- Misleading Calls: Reports emerged today that some voters were receiving robocalls from “americavotes.com” that were telling them to go to the wrong polling places. It’s unclear who “americavotes.com” is, but they may have been trying to confuse voters into thinking they are AmericaVotes, a progressive advocacy group.
The polls heading into today’s vote were very close and low-turnout elections are notoriously difficult to predict, but Democrats face an uphill battle in their attempt to unseat these six Republicans. Even as Barack Obama carried Wisconsin by 14 points in 2008, John McCain carried these state senate districts with 55 percent of the vote. And even if Democrats pick up the three seats they need to take back control of the Wisconsin State Senate, two of their own still face recall elections next week.
Polls close tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern.
In One Sentence: Citizens across Wisconsin have been organizing for months to take back the seats necessary to put a check on Scott Walker’s extreme agenda, but the GOP and its allies are pulling out all the stops and using every dirty trick they can muster to remain in power.
Evening Brief: Important Stories That You May Have Missed
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