Wisconsin May Now Have a Pro-Labor Senate Majority

Last week, when Democrats won only two of six recall elections in Wisconsin, it appeared that they fell critically short of their goal of positioning themselves to turn back Governor Scott Walker’s anti-labor campaign in the “Badger State.” But, as journalist and Wisconsin native John Nichols has been reporting, if the Democrats being challenged in two subsequent recall elections could hold on to their seats, the Senate would be left with an effective pro-labor majority.

How is this possible?

The answer: The Democrats could then form a 17-16 pro-labor coalition with maverick Republican Dale Schultz, who earlier this year voted against Scott Walker’s attacks on unions.

In yesterday’s two final recall elections, Democratic Senators Jim Holperin and Bob Wirch easily beat back their Republican challengers.

What now?

Here’s how the Boston Herald summarizes it (“Democrats sweep final two recall elections in Wisconsin“):

The one-vote Senate majority means a single Republican defection could halt any legislation. Many eyes are turning to GOP Sen. Dale Schultz, who was the only Senate Republican to vote against Walker’s collective bargaining bill, which spurred the recalls of three Democrats and six Republicans.

In the recalls of the Republicans a week ago, Democrats claimed two Senate seats.

Schultz or any other Republican could block any future legislation, assuming the 16 Democrats vote together in opposition. That gives more power to moderate Republicans like Schultz, while also forcing GOP leaders to fashion legislation that can win the votes of at least some Democrats.

The narrower majority would make it tougher to win approval of controversial legislation, such as stricter abortion restrictions or tougher penalties for illegal immigrants.

Some have called these recall elections the first “Citizens United” elections, because of the flood of cash — by some estimates nearly $40 million — flowing into these small local elections from the likes of Koch Industries and Rove’s American Crossroads PAC.

Stay tuned. It’s going to be an interesting and difficult year for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Here journalist John Nichols talks to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now on August 10th, after the first six recall elections, and gives the fascinating backstory to this conflict, including the critical role of Dale Schultz going forward. Notice also the questionable role played once again by Waukesha County.

Near the end of this fascinating interview, Nichols tells Goodman that we have to be concerned about what the incredible amount of money in these local elections bodes for the national elections in 2012.

“We have to ask ourselves,” he says, “whether we’re going to have a democracy or a ‘dollarocracy?'”

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