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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker winner of recall election

Wisconsin recall: Quick primer on Scott Walker, Tom Barrett battle
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Updated: August 23, 2012 9:53AM

WAUKESHA, Wis. — Targeted for defeat by America’s unions, Gov. Scott Walker roared back with an even bigger victory Tuesday than his original one over Democrat Tom Barrett a year and a half ago.

This time he won 53 percent to 46 percent with 98 percent of precincts reporting.

“Tonight we tell Wisconsin, we tell our country and we tell people across the globe: Voters really do want leaders who stand up and make the tough decisions,” Walker said to cheers from supporters.

Democrats got one consolation prize early Wednesday morning, taking control of the state senate by recalling Republican State Sen. Van Wanggaard. That will make it harder for Walker to pass any legislation — at least until November when new Republican-drawn Senate districts could produce a different result.

With a $48 million to $19 million money advantage and organizing help from pro-business groups around the country, Walker’s campaign out-maneuvered Democrats who likewise bused in help from out-of-state.

Unions around the country were outraged when Walker unilaterally ended collective bargaining for most unionized state employees last year even after they had agreed to cuts in their pensions and benefits.

Fortified with supporters from around the country, angry union members and liberal activists occupied the state capitol for months. Mocking that occupation in her victory speech, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch said, “Now THIS is what democracy looks like.”

The bitter campaign divided Wisconsin families and friends. Walker and Barrett have their work cut out for them as they seek to mend the battle scars

As Walker supporters watched Barrett’s concession speech in Milwaukee on the big screen at Walker’s victory party, they booed loudly and repeatedly as Barrett said he and Walker agree: “We believe that it is important for us to work together.”

“No, no, no, no, no,” Walker had to shush his fans as they booed when he talked about his conversation with Barrett.

“The election is over,” Walker said. “Now is the time for us to come together.”

He will invite legislators over brats burger and Wisconsin beer — the Miller Lite and MGD flowed at Walker’s party — to settle their differences next week, he said.

Early Wednesday morning, former Democratic State Sen. John Lehman took a 779-vote lead over Wanggaard with 100 percent of precincts reporting, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported. Republicans won three other state senate contests and the lieutenant governor’s race.

Other Republican governors who have taken on unions in their own states may feel emboldened by Walker’s victory.

“The biggest surprise I saw was that a lot of private sector union members were supportive of Scott Walker,” Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips said.

In recent weeks, the unions gave less money and fewer troops than hoped for; most national Democrats stayed away and even President Barack Obama flew over Wisconsin without stopping by.

It was clear Walker had regained the momentum.

All the flattering commercials Walker’s money could buy needed support from Wisconsin voters and he touched a nerve with his insistence that most public employees accept lower benefits and give up their right to collective bargaining.

Democrats and Republicans from neighboring states poured in to help get every possible voter to the polls Tuesday, helping push voting turnout high enough that voters reported longer lines than they could ever remember.

More Illinoisans may have come to Wisconsin Tuesday to get voters on both sides of this election to the polls than came to watch the Cubs-Brewers game.

Americans for Prosperity, a pro-business group funded in large part by energy tycoons David and Charles Koch, poured at least $2 million to $3 million into keeping Walker in office.

But AFP President Tim Phillips said more than the money, the reason Walker won was because the Republicans learned to match the Democrats’ ground game.

“For the first time in years, our side matched the ground games of the unions and the Barret campaign — for the first time, there’s parity,” Phillips told the Sun-Times. “We have 150,000 grassroots activists across Wisconsin fighting for economic freedom, and we have been there since 2005.”

State Sen. Alberta Darling narrowly survived a recall attempt on her own seat last year.

“I think people like what Gov. Walker has done; the fact that their taxes are not going up, even if they didn’t like how he did it,” she said.

After the $9 million failed effort to recall Walker, Darling said she hopes the recall process will be limited to politicians charged with malfeasance.

Former Gov. Tommy Thompson said in his travels around the state in the last few months, he found “reservoirs of good will” for Walker.

Campaigners on the other side found and fostered reservoirs of ill will.

“We talked to city workers in Milwaukee and no one could stand Walker,” said Adelaide Rowe, 62, a librarian from Evanston who rode in a carpool convoy from the Chicago area with Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s, D-Evanston, organization to help in Wisconsin Tuesday. Unions, Obama for America, and various local Democratic groups around Illinois likewise sent buses.

Americans for Prosperity, the Illinois Tea Party, Family PAC, and Illinois Republican groups sent their own buses.

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., led busloads of Minnesotans in to work against Walker.

Walker said voters rewarded him for his courage: “In times of crisis, what has made America amazing [is that] there have been men and women of courage who stood up and decided it was more important to look out for the future of their children and grand-children than their own political careers.”

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