Sen. Dave Hansen (D), the first Wisconsin State Senator to face a recall general election, easily won his race last night by 32 points over Republican David VanderLeest.

This election was not designed to be held last night. Originally, Rep. John Nygren was the choice to face Hansen, one fo the “Fab 14” who left the state to deny a quorum for the anti-union bill which eventually passed. However, Nygren failed to submit the required 400 signatures to qualify for the ballot, a stunning display of incompetence. With Nygren unavailable, only VanderLeest, a tea party activist with several prior run-ins with the law, was on the ballot to challenge Hansen.

How it works in Wisconsin recall elections is that if there is only one challenger, the general election takes place. If multiple candidates challenge the incumbent in a recall, there’s a primary election first. The other two recalls yesterday, against Democrats Jim Holperin and Robert Wirch, featured multiple candidates, so there were primaries. Last week, six Democratic challengers won primaries against fake Democrats put on the ballot by Republicans to give their incumbents an extra month to campaign, and to give the legislature time to pass a gerrymandered redistricting plan.

Hansen took 20,653 votes to VanderLeest’s 10,604. As VanderLeest was seen as having no chance of winning, the turnout was pretty low. I would expect the next round of recalls, six general elections between Republican state Senators and Democratic challengers on August 9, to attract many more voters.

The two remaining recall general elections, against Holperin and Wirch, will take place August 16.

Democrats need to win a net three seats from Republicans to take control of the state Senate. Hansen’s victory gets them one step closer by holding serve on their Democratic incumbents.

The bill eliminating most collective bargaining rights for almost all public employees in the state is currently in effect, and will be difficult to overturn even if Democrats take the state Senate in August. Democrats would probably need the state Assembly and the Governor’s mansion to get it done.

David Dayen

David Dayen

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