Republican Governor Scott Walker easily beat back a Democrat and union-sponsored recall election in Wisconsin by a margin that exceeded most national polls.
After hundreds of thousands of union workers and others protested over 1-1/2 years and after union activists and others took over the Wisconsin capital building and trashed it in support of public service unions, voters re-elected Walker with a wider margin than in his initial election.
Late Tuesday night, Walker solidly beat Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a Democrat, making him the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election; two others had failed.
The night provided a huge boost for Walker and Republicans in Washington and state capitals who have embraced fiscal conservatism as a solution for recession and debt over deficit spending and taxpayer-funded pensions and health care benefits for government union members. Walker shut down aspects of union collective bargaining that led to excessively generous pension and health care benefits for union workers at the expense of taxpayers. Walker successfully defended his policies against the full force of the American labor movement and the traditional left.
"Bringing our state together will take some time, but I hope to start right away," Walker said after his victory. "It is time to put our differences aside and figure out ways that we can move Wisconsin forward," said Walker during his victory speech.
Public union workers, such as teachers and government workers, who had been paying next to nothing for their generous pensions, and much less than private industry workers for health care, were required to pay more under Walker. Unions are still able to negotiate pay increases on behalf of members, but under Walker, workers are no longer required to join unions and do not have to pay their dues. Government union workers paid about 1 percent into their pensions before Walker and now must pay over 5 percent into them. The amount is still far below what people in private industry must pay even though government union workers make much more money than their private-industry counterparts.
Major unions in Wisconsin have shrunk by 50 percent since Wisconsin workers were given the option not to join them. Early on, leading Democrats, including Bill Clinton, President Barack Obama and DNC head Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, signaled their support for Tom Barrett, the Milwaukee mayor who took on Walker. However Obama stayed away from Wisconsin after polling showed the Democrats were in trouble. Now, Mr. Obama must return to Wisconsin and ask for support for his own campaign.