Remember Wisconsin? It’s been knocked off the front pages by more pressing stories, but earlier this year Wisconsin dominated the national news when Governor Scott Walker sought to reform public employee collective bargaining laws, Democratic Senators fled the state, and protesters occupied the Wisconsin Statehouse for days.
Today Wisconsin is back in the news, writing another chapter in the saga of the public employee collective bargaining law. Six Republican Senators face unusual mid-summer recall votes today. If Democrats can win three of those seats, the Wisconsin Senate will flip to Democratic control. Proponents and opponents of the collective bargaining law have poured millions of dollars — at least $28 million, according to estimates — into advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts. Polling data indicates that all six of the races are close, with turnout likely to tell the tale. And who can predict how many voters will show up at the polls on a hot summer day?
In Ohio, there is special interest in Wisconsin because the Buckeye State followed Wisconsin’s lead in enacting a public employee collective bargaining law. In Ohio, the fight will resume in November, when the electorate will vote on a public referendum on that law. Wisconsin’s votes today could be an indicator of how the political tides are flowing. I also wonder whether the recent national news about government spending, debt, and credit ratings will have any effect on voters. Wisconsin Republicans have defended the collective bargaining law, in part, on the ground that it has meant savings for cash-strapped state and local government entities. If recent events have made voters more concerned about government spending, that may work to the Republicans’ advantage.