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Big Loss for Unions in Wisconsin

The results from the Wisconsin gubernatorial primary are in, and unions were dealt a serious blow—their preferred candidate in the Democratic primary, Kathleen Falk, was soundly defeated by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who received 58 percent of the vote to Falk’s 35 percent. While Barrett has pledged to roll back many of Governor Walker’s policies, he has tangled with the unions before and is widely viewed as a less pro-union candidate than Falk, who received about $4 million in support from labor groups, Politico reports. These results are the clearest sign yet that even in the union strongholds of the Midwest, unions are losing their hold on the Democratic party.

Yet this isn’t even the worst sign for Wisconsin’s unions. Many papers have noted the decisive victory of Barrett over Falk, but fewer have noted the extraordinarily heavy turnout in the GOP primary. As Christian Schneider noted at National Review, Walker was essentially running unopposed, and yet managed to garner 15,000 more votes than both Democrats combined.

This is big. Such a high turnout for an uncontested primary is extremely rare, and more likely than not is an example of voters uniting to send a message. Slater writes:

A bit of context: Traditionally, vote totals in contested primaries vastly exceed vote totals in corresponding primaries that are essentially uncontested. Take, for instance, the 2010 gubernatorial election, when Walker faced off against former congressman Mark Neumann, and Barrett ran for his party’s nomination essentially unopposed. Over 618,000 people voted in the GOP primary, while only 236,000 voters cast ballots in the Dem primary, where there was nothing at stake. That same year, Ron Johnson ran in a U.S. Senate GOP primary against several other candidates, while incumbent Russ Feingold was unopposed. The GOP primary drew 596,000 voters, while Feingold garnered only 224,000 votes. The Republican gubernatorial and Senate primaries drew 263 percent and 266 percent more voters, respectively, than the Democrats. […]

Yet last night’s primary saw something very different. Last night’s Democratic turnout for a contested primary (Falk, Barrett, and lesser candidates Doug La Follette, Kathleen Vinehout, and Walker’s liberal primary challenger) only surpassed Walker’s vote total by 8 percent. Furthermore, the Democratic vote total was likely padded by Republicans who crossed over to vote for Kathleen Falk, sensing she would be an easier challenger for Walker to defeat in June. (In the absence of exit-polling data, we will never know how many people were in this category; but in the days leading up to the primary, it was a very real debate among Republicans.)

This is indeed a surprise, and it suggests that Democrats have a lot to do before the general election. With the primary over the party will now close ranks around Barrett, but the long confrontation seems to have left the GOP based at least as motivated and mobilized as the Dems.

The battle with Scott Walker is one that the labor movement feels it cannot afford to walk away from — but it is turning into a very difficult battle for labor to win.

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  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    The Labor Gangs are tilting at windmills. Is it wrong to feel Schadenfreude, at all their wasted money and effort?

  • Kris

    Possible lesson for those forcing re-do elections: you better be darn sure of your prospects, because your opponents are going to be mighty unhappy, and thus highly motivated.

  • Kris

    From Ann Althouse: “There were over 900,000 signatures (supposedly valid signatures) on the petitions. That’s over 200,000 people who forced this expensive procedure on the state and then didn’t care enough to participate.”

    Speaking of primaries, this story (also via Althouse) is amusing.

  • John Wondra

    While we’re counting votes and looking for signs, did anyone notice the glaring disparity in the MSM-touted and union proclaimed support for the recall in the first place, as compared to the actual involvement of supposedly enraged masses of Wisconsonites?

    For weeks the MSM and unions embraced the “1 million signatures” claimed to have been tendered for qualiying the recall issue in the first place. Of course, the left-run Wisconsin state body charged with verifying these alleged proponents declined to perform its signature obligation and refused to conduct the only statutory duty it is empowered with; so, execept for die-hard and determined citizen volunteers’ internet cloud counting efforts, there was no one to contest these assertions on an “official” State record.

    Nevertheless, and assuming the “1 million” enraged signatories to be a fractional representation of the true numbers of Wisconsin citizens who felt victimized by the “radical’ reforms of Gov. Scott Walker, how do the Left explain that only about 670,000 of these self-motivated and fervent representatives of the voting populace actually showed up to vote?

    And what does THAT say, when Walker, in a virtually-uncontested race drew 626,538 votes from Republicans who really had nothing much at stake?

  • alex scipio

    The REAL interesting part is that Walker’s reforms are provably, inarguably, saving taxpayer dollars NOW… give them another six months and the reforms will have saved far more mone, & Walker will have been proven correct by an even larger margin…. makes one wonder how many union members – who ALSO are taxpayers – will side with Walker to save THEIR tax dollars… Just as not all African Americans think Sharpton is intelligent, not all unions members think Trumka, et al, are worth any of their time, money or attention….

  • Mark Michael

    U. of WI Madison law prof, Ann Althouse posted the observation, “Why didn’t those 900,000 supposedly valid signers of the Walker recall petition all go vote in the D Primary Tuesday?!” Only 650,000 voted in the D Primary! See:

    She, Ed Driscoll, Sarah Hoyt, & Elizabeth Foley are filling in for Glenn Reynolds while he’s on vacation – explaining the “Instapundit” link for Althouse. (It takes 3 bloggers to fill the shoes of the inestimable Reynolds. A few others are also posting in his absence; i.e., Michael Totten.)

  • Mark Michael

    Whoops. I can’t count – 4 main bloggers are filling in at Instapundit for Prof Reynolds (Totten has quite 3 or 4 posts, too).

  • Charles R. Williams

    Walker will win because reversing his reforms will cause large tax increases and service cuts. He has played the game skillfully. Union power in Wisconsin will be permanently and drastically reduced. The same cannot be said of Kasich in Ohio. And the simple explanation is that he let the game get out of control and lost.

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