Scott Walker may have held on to his office, but Democrats in Wisconsin could claim at least a partial victory in the June 5 recall election. Former State Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, ousted State Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, by a margin of 800 votes.
The win gives Democrats a 17-16 majority in the state’s upper house, and an important check on Walker’s conservative agenda, which could include a so-called “right to work” law, which would limit the ability of private-sector unions to organize.
The win could be contested. Wanggaard has the right under state law to ask for a recount. But the margin — 779 votes out of 71,731 votes cast — is fully 1.1 percent of the vote total, and is highly unlikely to be reversed in a recount.
Prior to Tuesday, Republicans and Democrats had equal numbers in the Senate, with 16 members each. Republicans had held the Senate until March, when State Sen. Pam Galloway, R-Wausau, resigned. †Democrats have taken three seats away from Republicans since the start of the session in 2011.
The Democrats will have to quickly defend their new majority. 16 of the 33 seats in the Wisconsin Senate are up for election this fall, including 10 held by Democrats and six held by Republicans. Included in that number are State Sens. Jessica King, D-Oshkosh, and Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, who ousted Republican state senators in the 2011 recall elections.
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