The Capital in Madison, Wisconsin, on Saturday, March 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Barbara Rodriguez)
The Wisconsin uprising against Governor Scott Walker’s assaults on union rights, public education and public services spawned a recall movement that has forced Walker and his political allies to face new elections. And the first of these takes place today, with Democratic and Republican primaries for governor, lieutenant governor and four state Senate seats.
So what should we watch for today?
Very sunny, mild day in Wisconsin—great for voting.
But Wisconsin has never held a primary in May.
The Wisconsin recall elections are unprecedented, not just for the Badger State but for the nation. Never before has a single state had citizen-initiated elections on the same day that could shift control of the executive branch and the dominant chamber in the state legislature.
The first question is turnout. Will the intensity of the Wisconsin fight bring crowds to the polls for the primaries on the Democratic and Republican sides of the ballot?
The record high turnout for a primary in the post-war era was 1952, when Joe McCarthy faced a GOP primary challenge and Dems were nominating a challenger. Intense moment, comparable in many ways to the current one.
We’ll see if turnout is comparable. That’s a measure of intensity.
Crossovers in the GOP Primary
Scott Walker will lose some Madison precincts to his “Real Republican” challenger, Arthur Kohl-Riggs, a Capitol protester who has run a smart, fun campaign challenging the governor’s policies and the premise that the Republican party must be reactionary. Kohl-Riggs’s message is an appealing one for determined foes of the governor: “Why Wait? Recall Scott Walker on Tuesday.”
It is, in fact, true that were Walker to lose the Republican primary, he would be out of office in May, not June. But there are other measures of success or failure for governors facing primary challenges.
If Kohl-Riggs runs up any kind of vote beyond Madison—and certainly if he gets into double digits—that’s a sign not of crossovers but of Republican distaste for Walker.