Democrat John Lehman has claimed victory, but the election has yet to be certified and with only a few hundred votes separating the candidates, Republican state Senator Van Wanggaard has not yet conceded. The recall battle in Senate District 21 was one of four lower-profile recall elections that took place on Tuesday. Democrats and labor groups failed last summer to capture control of the Wisconsin Senate, but with a chamber split 17-16 all they needed to do on Tuesday was capture one seat.
If Big Labor and the Democrats managed to narrowly wrest control of the state Senate from Republicans, the man to be blame will be Republican state Senator Dale Schultz.
Under Wisconsin's new redistricting plan, the maps that go into effect for the August primary and November general election will most likely allow Republicans to gain two or more senate seats. For legal purposes of representation the new map is in effect now, but the Government Accountability Board ruled that for the purpose of the June recall election the old maps apply. That means that some Wisconsin voters cast votes on Tuesday for a lawmaker who in reality no longer represents them.
Republicans in the legislature, ready to stop the recall mania and end the confusion over which lawmaker represents which municipalities, introduced legislation to require all recall elections to be held under the current maps - not the old maps. Fearing a recall himself, Senator Dale Schultz bolted his party and joined Democrats and Big Labor in opposing the legislation.
His move effectively killed the bill.
According to Assembly Republican Leader Rep. Robin Vos (R-Racine), if the new maps had been in effect on Tuesday, Wanggaard would have held on to his seat. John Lehman, the Big Labor-friendly Democrat who has claimed victory, was defeated by Wanggaard in the 2010 Tea Party wave that swept conservative Republicans into state office in Wisconsin.
Joe Handrick, an attorney with experience in Wisconsin redistricting, noted on election night that if Wanggaard had been required to face off against Lehman in the district the newly elected lawmaker will represent, he would have likely won. That new district leans Republican with a margin of 5%.
Because Republican Dale Schultz, who joined Democrats in opposing Walker's collective bargaining reforms in 2011, blocked implementation of the new maps - the maps that lawmakers currently represent - for the recall process, a Republican senator is very well going to lose his seat. Schultz has repeatedly gone out of his way to block conservative legislation such as a measure that would reform mining regulations in Wisconsin and lead to the creation of thousands of high paying jobs.
Tuesday night there were not a lot of bright spots for Democrats and Big Labor as they were routed in 3 state senate recalls and suffered a devastating setback - a hammer blow - in the victory of Governor Scott Walker. Thanks to liberal Republican Dale Schultz, who refused to campaign in support of Governor Walker during the recall, Big Labor and the Democrats may win a hollow victory.
And hollow victory it is because the Wisconsin legislature is not scheduled to take up any business before the November elections in which Republicans are guaranteed a pick-up of several senate seats, tipping the balance of power back in their favor. But until then, thanks to Senator Dale Schultz, Democrats may have won an election that under Wisconsin law no longer exists in an election with voters that are no longer represented by either of the candidates who could occupy the office.