Wisconsin recall vote


Having replaced the fascinatingly felonious Rod Blagojevich with the uncharismatic Pat Quinn, who shares power with the notoriously tight-lipped Michael Madigan, things have been somewhat quiet in Illinois politics. Rich Miller, who runs the essential Capitol Fax blog, recently asked his well-informed commentariat to evaluate the big players in Illinois politics, and the results were instructive: for Quinn, a resounding meh; for Madigan, admiration of his political skill but mixed feelings about his actual politics; for Emanuel, early but okay. For better or worse, we do not live in interesting times.

It’s quite the opposite in Wisconsin, where the resurgence of the GOP led voters to throw the bums out during the 2010 midterms. Now today they are deciding to throw the new bums out, or throw new bums in, depending on your perspective. Some notes:

* One revenue stream Illinois could consider is ideological divisiveness: five of the nine races broke the old legislative-race record; the total amount spent approaches that spent on the state’s 2010 gubernatorial race. It’s one way of reinvesting in the community, at least.

* And it’s not like there’s not an audience for that money: turnout—for, keep in mind, a state-legislature recall election—might hit presidential-election levels.

* Interest is so high people are sad when they can’t vote:

"We’ve had calls from people who want to know where they vote, and it turns out they don’t live in one of the Senate districts, so they’re unhappy about that," said Magney. "And that’s what happens when you’ve got elections that happen in certain districts, but people in the media markets are seeing ads about it and not realizing who their senator is."

* Andy Kroll has some interesting stats on recall elections; I didn’t know they were so successful.

* But as recall-junkie Joshua Spivak notes, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Wisconsin Democrats will flip legislative control, as he notes that successful recalls tend to center around political betrayal and not mulligans.

* How unprecedented is it? Spivak: "Since 1908 (when Oregon became the first state to adopt the recall for state level officials), there have been 20 state legislative recall elections in the entire country. In this term, Wisconsin will have nine recalls in a little over a month." With, perhaps, Gov. Scott Walker to follow next year.

* What’s it about? The answer seems to be the same as it was earlier this year when protests filled the state capitol for weeks: unions, unions, unions. As I wrote way back in March, Scott Walker faced something of a perfect storm, to borrow a phrase Spivak has used: Wisconsin, ideologically speaking, may be heterogeneous, but the fact that the statehouse, the University of Wisconsin, and some of the state’s biggest media outlets are all in a traditionally left-leaning city means that the state GOP was inevitably going to face more friction than in a state where those centers of power are more separate (like, I dunno, Illinois).

* Also what it’s about: whether the tremendous boost the conservative wing of the state’s GOP got during the midterms has enough staying power to last through the recall challenge.

* What’s going to happen? It’s so unprecedented that there’s really no way of knowing.


Photograph: Rochelle, just rochelle (CC by 2.0)