Democrats gain control of Senate in Wisconsin recall election

MILWAUKEE -- There may be a glimmer of good news for Wisconsin Democrats despite last night’s convincing win by Republican Scott Walker in the recall race for governor.

After a vote tabulation glitch in Racine County, Democrat John Lehman appears to have come out on top in a state Senate recall that late Tuesday night looked as if it was going the way of incumbent Republican Van Wanggard. The margin is less than 1,000 votes, and Wanggard has yet to concede though Lehman, who held the seat until 2010, declared victory.

It’s only one seat, but that’s enough for now to flip control of the state Senate from the GOP to Democrats, a change that could in theory make things harder for Walker to impose his conservative agenda in Madison.


The emphasis is on theoretically, because the legislature isn’t scheduled to meet between now and the November elections, when Republicans will get a chance to regain control of the Senate.

And since they controlled the legislature during last year’s redistricting process, they remapped many districts to make them more Republican friendly — just as the Democrats who control the legislature in neighboring Illinois did to cement their power.

Democrats challenged four Senate seats in Wisconsin, including that of the majority leader Scott Fitzgerald, but only Wanggard’s changed hands after Tuesday’s voting. If the result holds, Democrats will hold a 17-16 majority, though Wanggard can request a recount under Wisconsin law.

But after Walker’s 53.2% to 46.3% victory over Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, which brought an end to more than a year of bitter campaigning and tens of millions of dollars in campaign spending, Democrats have to see Lehman’s apparent victory as better than nothing.