Democrats eye Wisconsin governor recall after loss

WASHINGTON Wed Aug 10, 2011 5:39pm EDT

1 of 6. Voters take to the polls as Wisconsin holds the nation's largest ever recall elections in Whitefish Bay August 9, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Darren Hauck

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats in Wisconsin said on Wednesday they planned to try to recall the state's Republican governor, a day after they failed to take back control of the state Senate in a recall election for six senators.

In a blow to labor unions and their allies, Democrats fell one seat short of the three they needed to win back control on Tuesday, after an expensive campaign seen as a precursor to next year's presidential election.

The recall vote followed furious protests earlier this year over the policies of newly elected Governor Scott Walker, who cut benefits and collective bargaining rights for public workers as he sought to rein in the state budget.

"They (Democrats) were unable to convince voters to repudiate the Walker agenda," said Charles Franklin, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin.

"Ultimately, this is about political control and political power and they didn't get where they needed to be."

Unions and their allies -- and their Republican opponents -- poured over $30 million into the recall fight, seen as a test of labor's political strength and Republican staying power after big victories in 2010 congressional and state elections.

Groups that had backed the unions in the senate recall were planning to recall Walker. One, United Wisconsin, collected pledges of support for a recall on its website, with promises to contact voters for signatures on a formal petition.

"We have every anticipation that there is going to be a strong movement out there of people who are going to seek and trigger the recall of Scott Walker," said Graeme Zielinski, communications director for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

Both sides claimed victory. Democratic and union leaders said recalling two Republicans -- and coming close to ousting others -- in historically Republican districts, showed voters were unhappy.

"This was very important signal that was sent to the far-right Republican legislators that took control last November, that their attacks on working people have consequences," said Michael Podhorzer, political director at the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the United States, representing 12.2 million members.

Republicans touted the outcome as a blow to Democrats and "Labor Bosses" and a sign that voters support Walker's policies.

"If all you can accomplish when you have the money and muscle of the president and his arch-powerful national union cronies behind you is to keep your minority, it's pretty clear that voters just aren't on your side," said Stephan Thompson, executive director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin.

Republicans won control over the senate and governor's office in November 2010 in Wisconsin, a traditionally Democratic state that is expected to be a battleground in 2012, when Democratic President Barack Obama runs for reelection.

Wisconsin state backed Obama when he won the presidency in 2008, but is now considered a "swing state," not seen as heavily favoring either party.

(Editing by Christopher Wilson)

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