A judicial election with big implications for the political fight over public-sector unions in Wisconsin was held yesterday. And the result, as of this morning is…too close to call.
First, a brief explanation of the stakes from the Journal-Sentinel in Milwaukee:
The razor-thin result was the latest twist in Wisconsin’s ongoing political turmoil. The state has drawn the attention of the nation in recent weeks because of the fight over a controversial law sharply restricting public employee unions, which caused massive weeks-long protests in the Capitol, a boycott of the Senate by Democrats and attempts to recall senators from both parties.
Interest groups on both sides had portrayed the election as a referendum on Gov. Scott Walker’s agenda and particularly on the collective bargaining law. Conservatives backed Prosser, and liberals supported Kloppenburg, even though the candidates themselves insisted they were politically neutral.
Legal challenges to the new law — which would eliminate most collective bargaining for most public employees — are expected to reach the high court, but it’s not clear if the justices would take up the case before this race’s winner is scheduled to be sworn in Aug. 1.
The conventional wisdom held that the left was more motivated in this contest, given that its union-member base is so angry about the law that limits collective bargaining by public employees to wages and eliminates automatic deduction of union dues from state workers’ paychecks. Yet, with 99 percent of precincts reporting, the candidate favored by the right, Prosser, was leading by 835 votes out of almost 1.5 million cast.
It’s safe to say the campaigns are headed for a recount, and then probably litigation.
Obviously, Wisconsin is a special case because of the large, lengthy protests over the public-unions law. But after big wins nationally by Democrats in 2006 and 2008, followed by a big Republican resurgence last year — and with big-time motivation for both sides heading into 2012 — I think we’re going to see a host of these super-close races next year.
Let’s just go ahead and call it Election 2012-13.
– By Kyle Wingfield
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