by Jennie Bowser
With the successful recall of Senator Van Wanggaard yesterday, Democrats now hold a 17-16 majority in the Wisconsin Senate. The margin is slim though -- Democrat John Lehman leads by fewer than 800 votes -- and a recount is possible. Lehman held the seat until he was unseated by Wanggaard in 2010. It is little more than a symbolic victory for Democrats -- the legislature has adjourned its session for the year and won't reconvene until next January. With 16 Senate seats up in the November elections, it's anybody's guess which party will control the Senate in 2013.
Senate Republican leader Scott Fitzgerald and Republican senator Terry Moulton survived yesterday's recall attempt. A fourth recall election was triggered against Republican Senator Pam Galloway, but she resigned in March, leaving her seat vacant. The recall election was still held, however, and a Republican took her vacant seat.
Wisconsin claims the title as the most prolific user of the recall process -- 17 of the 36 recall elections ever held for state legislators in U.S. history have occurred in the Badger State. They're more successful with recalls in Wisconsin too (at least with legislative recalls, anyway) - five of the 17 recalls have caused the seat in question to switch to the other party.
The failure of the recall effort against Governor Scott Walker and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch breaks a streak, however: before yesterday, every recall election against a governor in U.S. history (yep, all two of them) had resulted in the successful recall of the governor. The first gubernatorial recall election was in 1921, when North Dakota governor Lynn Frazier was recalled. The next didn't occur until 2003, when Californians recalled Governor Gray Davis. Arizona Governor Evan Mecham was nearly recalled in 1988 -- enough signatures were gathered to trigger a recall election, but the state House of Representatives impeached him before the recall election could be held.
Check out the Recall Elections Blog, written by Joshua Spivak at Wagner College, for lots of wonky and fascinating analysis of how the recall works and what it really means, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for the latest news. NCSL, of course, offers a detailed overview of the recall process too.