Wisconsin Democrats have now won a round in the state Senate recalls, with Dem incumbent state Sen. Dave Hansen easily winning against a politically weak and seemingly troubled challenger, GOP activist and recall organizer David VanderLeest.
With 65% percent of precincts reporting, Hansen is winning by 69%-31%, and has been projected as the winner by the Associated Press.
In two other races, where Republican primaries were being held, the votes are still being counted to determine who will face Democratic state Sens. Robert Wirch and Jim Holperin.
This leaves eight races to go. On August 9, general elections will be held in six races targeting incumbent Republicans. Then on August 16, two more races will be held targeting incumbent Democrats. Republicans currently control the chamber by a majority of 19-14. Democrats hope to gain a net three seats and win a majority in a backlash against GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-public employee union legislation. In other words, control of the chamber is up for grabs.
This particular result was not in much doubt — due to the fact that VanderLeest has been plagued by questions about his fitness for office, after revelations about his personal finances and reports of domestic violence (which included a plea of no-contest to two charges of disorderly conduct).
As the election headed into its home stretch, VanderLeest made such statements as, “None of it’s true. I don’t smoke rocks, and that’s the truth,” and threatened to sue Hansen and various Democratic groups for slander. (He also claimed to have learned that there was an investigation against these groups for racketeering. The source: A complaint filed by a supporter close to his campaign.)
To be clear, VanderLeest was not the GOP’s preferred candidate. Instead, Republicans became stuck with VanderLeest after their originally recruited candidate, state Rep. John Nygren, failed to submit the required 400 valid petition signatures. Nygren submitted slightly over 400 signatures for himself — despite the fact that Republicans had been able to gather 18,000 signatures to trigger a recall — with not enough of a buffer for when a few them were disqualified. Nygren initially filed a lawsuit to get onto the ballot, but lost in court and announced he would not further appeal the decision.
In last week’s Democratic primaries, for races targeting six incumbent Republicans, the official Democratic candidates all won against fake Dem candidates — who were in fact Republican activists planted in the races by the state GOP in order to delay the general elections.