Wisconsin recall elections unlikely to ease political rifts

August 11, 2011

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SAYNER, Wis. - In the end, it fell short of the outcome protesters who had marched in Wisconsin’s state capital for weeks had hoped for: Democrats managed to seize two Republican state Senate seats in recall elections Tuesday, but fell short of the three or more they needed to take control of that legislative chamber.

By yesterday, everyone was declaring victory.

Democrats and labor leaders said their two recall victories were remarkable if not optimal; only two incumbent Wisconsin lawmakers had ever been thrown out before in such elections since the state began allowing them more than 80 years ago.

And Republicans noted that their incumbent senators had won four other recall elections, meaning that Wisconsin voters had allowed them to keep control of the Senate, the state Assembly, and the governor’s office, just as they had before the state blew up into a battleground over cuts to collective bargaining rights earlier this year.

But for those who had hoped that an unprecedented summer of recall efforts, millions of dollars in campaign advertisements on both sides and a bruising fight over tactics might, at last, mean some end to the deep political split in the state, it now seemed likely to do anything but that.

Governor Scott Walker, whose efforts to curtail collective bargaining rights for most public workers had set off the split, issued a statement pledging to work with lawmakers of all parties, but few others sounded soothed.

Some Democrats said they fully intended to pursue a recall effort against Walker next year after he has been in office for at least a year. And some other Republicans - who now must contend with a far narrower margin of 17 Republicans to 16 Democrats in the state Senate - still sounded uncompromising.

To some, the recalls had become not just a measure of control over legislation in Madison but a larger referendum on Republican takeovers of state houses in 2010 and also a gauge of voters’ moods, at least in one battleground state, in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election.

On Tuesday, two Republicans - senators Dan Kapanke of La Crosse and Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac - were removed by Democratic challengers.

Until Tuesday, Republicans had dominated the Senate with a larger 19-to-14 majority, but with six recall elections in a single day, the damage for Republicans could have been far worse.

Four Republicans who held onto their jobs included senators Robert Cowles of Green Bay, Luther Olsen of Ripon, and Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls.

Vote counting dragged into the wee hours of yesterday in a fourth race near Milwaukee, but Alberta Darling ultimately held onto her seat. Darling had been a crucial target for Democrats; she is cochairwoman of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee and someone the Democratic Party’s state chairman, Mike Tate, last week described as the “crown jewel of our recall efforts.’’

Two Senate Democrats face recall elections next week, but given the results on Tuesday, those races now cannot affect which party controls the Senate. — NEW YORK TIMES

Congressman looks into bin Laden raid movie WASHINGTON - The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee sought an investigation yesterday into the Obama administration’s cooperation with award-winning filmmakers working on a movie about the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

Representative Peter King, a New York Republican, said too much information already has leaked out about the Navy SEAL raid that killed bin Laden in Pakistan in May, and Pentagon officials have cautioned against discussing details of the mission.

King asked the inspectors general of the CIA and Defense Department to determine what consultations occurred in the Obama administration about providing Hollywood with access to covert military operators and clandestine CIA officers.

The picture will be directed by Kathryn Bigelow and the screenwriter will be Mark Boal, 2009 Academy Award winners for “The Hurt Locker.’’

The White House ridiculed King’s request, saying the movie makers will not receive any sensitive information.

“We do not discuss classified information,’’ Press secretary Jay Carney told reporters. “And I would hope that as we face the continued threat from terrorism, the House Committee on Homeland Security would have more important topics to discuss than a movie.’’ — ASSOCIATED PRESS top stories on Twitter

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