Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) told a gaggle of bloggers at the Heritage Foundation Tuesday that the controversial results of the state Supreme Court race in the Badger State surprised him, and indicate that Wisconsin isn’t as pro-union as the thousands who gathered in and around the state capitol in Madison during the collective bargaining fight might want to think.
He also said that the battle between pro and anti-collective bargaining sides during the budget fight last month was much uglier than has been reported, with unknown leftist “thuggery” leading many state legislators to be “intimidated.”
Johnson, who replaced Sen. Russ Feingold (D) in the Senate in the Republican sweep of the Wisconsin ballot in 2010, said that the apparent defeat of liberal Supreme Court candidate JoAnne Kloppenberg will significantly slow the roll of unions as they attempt to stop Republicans across the country from passing laws they don’t like.
“I was pretty depressed,” Johnson said, describing his mood on April 6 morning when it looked like Kloppenberg had won by the slimmest of margins.
“That was depressing,” he told the audience at the Heritage Foundation. “The signal that that would have sent, the amount of energy that would have provided to public sector unions, the bosses and just to the electorate in general i think would have been terrible for the nation, truthfully.”
But the later news that Prosser was ahead by several thousand votes sucked that newfound labor energy right out the door, Johnson said.
But while Prosser is indeed ahead in the vote count, the results of the race have yet to be certified. The state is still completing its canvass, while continuing to investigate the much-reported counting error in Waukesha county. Johnson though, isn’t waiting to declare a victor.
“It was a squeaker but we won and the polling results I’d seen didn’t indicate that we were going to win,” Johnson said. “So from my standpoint that was a huge victory and it has far greater implications beyond the state of Wisconsin.”
What’s at stake, Johnson said, is a politics dominated by the new “class warfare” of “public sector vs private sector.” Johnson cited a Wall Street Journal column from April 1 that reported government employees outnumber those associated with manufacturing by nearly two-to-one.
“Let’s face it,” Johnson said. “We better win this fight, the private sector, while we still outnumber them.”
Asked by someone in the room if the thought the unions would give their opponents “a fair fight,” Johnson said the stories out of the collective bargaining battle with Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) he’d heard pointed to no.
“What was a very under-reported story was the level of thuggery, the level of intimidation,” he said. He said that the threats against Republican lawmakers went beyond the threatening emails allegedly sent by a 26 year-old resident of Cross Plains to Republican legislators near the end of the fight over Walker’s collective bargaining-limiting budget plan.
“That was just one that was publicized,” Johnson said. “I was talking to [Wisconsin lawmakers] and the level of intimidation was really unbelievable. the fact that it went unreported was not a good sign. That is not the way our democracy should work. So, yeah, I’m highly concerned about what’s gonna happen.”
A Prosser win will go a long way toward changing those dynamics, Johnson suggested.
“That is what was so important about that first test election with David Prosser,” Johnson said. “That took a little wind out of their sails and I’m glad it did.”
Asked by TPM if the close Supreme Court race and the growing cry for recall of several Republican state Senators in Wisconsin signaled that Badger State voters were souring on their new Republican leaders, of which Johnson is one, he said the proof is in the Prosser vote totals.
“The really good news is, and I saw some more detailed results out of Wisconsin, is Judge Prosser beat both Scott Walker and I in key counties,” he said, referring to totals from Waukesha and Milwaukee counties. “In all the major counties he outpolled us in relation to his competitors. The only reason that vote was close was Madison or Dane County.”
“So if you really take a look at the detailed results from that election I’m actually pretty bouyed by it,” Jonson said.