MADISON, Wisc. (CN) – Wisconsin’s summer of recalls continues today, with two elections targeting Democratic state senators. If both Democrats lose, the state Senate will revert back to 19 Republicans and 14 Democrats – just as it was before all the recalls started.
In last week’s recall elections, Democrats fell one seat short of taking control of the state Senate; Republican incumbents successfully defended four seats and Democrats picked up two. The margin was trimmed to 17-16.
The recalls began after Republicans pushed through Gov. Scott Walker’s Budget Repair Bill, which stripped state employees of their right to collectively bargain for anything but wages. Voters recalled Republicans for voting for the bill, and Democrats for fleeing the state to deny Republicans a quorum.
Both of today’s races are expected to be close, though the two districts involved are different as can be. State Sen. Jim Holperin defends his seat in the 12th District, an 11-county rural area in the North Woods. And Sen. Robert Wirch’s 22nd District in Kenosha County, in the southeastern corner of the state, is close to Chicago.
Holperin is considered the more vulnerable. Then-candidate Barack Obama took 53 percent of the vote there in 2008, his lowest margin in any Wisconsin Senate district held by a Democrat, and a lower margin than in seven districts held by Republicans.
Holperin is the only Wisconsin politician who has been recalled twice. The first time, 21 years ago, was for his support for tribal spearfishing.
Holperin faces Kim Simac, the founder of the Northwoods Patriots, a Tea Party group.
Wirch faces another political newcomer – Jonathan Steitz, a corporate lawyer who works in Chicago. Wirch’s district went 57 percent for Obama in 2008.
The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a government watchdog group, estimated that $2.3 million has been spent in the Wirch-Steitz race, and $4.5 million on Holperin v. Simac.
Wisconsin Democrats are expected to try to recall Gov. Walker when he becomes eligible for recall next year.