In Wis­con­sin, re­call tar­get stands by bud­get stance

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY CLAIRE COURCHANE

Wis­con­sin state Sen. Randy Hop­per goes to work ev­ery morn­ing not know­ing how long he will have his day job. And he’s fine with that.

One of the prime tar­gets of a re­call ef­fort or­ga­nized by state Democrats, the Fond du Lac Repub­li­can ex­presses no re­grets about vot­ing for the con­tro­ver­sial law ear­lier this year that set off a ti­tanic po­lit­i­cal clash be­tween new GOP Gov. Scott Walker and the state’s pow­er­ful pub­lic-sec­tor unions.

Mr. Hop­per is now cop­ing with the po­lit­i­cal blow­back, fac­ing a July 12 re­call vote as Democrats plan to tie him to a gov­er­nor whose pop­u­lar­ity has slipped since push­ing the law through the state Leg­is­la­ture.

“I ab­so­lutely would’ve voted the same way know­ing how it’s all turned out, be­cause it’s the right thing in mov­ing our state for­ward,” Mr. Hop­per told The Wash­ing­ton Times in an in­ter­view. “We have to have the courage [to face] the kind of in­tim­i­da­tion we face ev­ery day, be­cause we said it’s im­por­tant for our fu­ture gen­er­a­tions and more im­por­tant for our state that we have peo­ple with the kind of po­lit­i­cal courage that has been miss­ing in Madi­son.”

Mr. Hop­per, a busi­ness­man who op­er­ated a string of lo­cal ra­dio sta­tions, and a hand­ful of other state lawmakers, of both par­ties, are feel­ing the af­ter­shocks of the epic po­lit­i­cal clash that con­sumed this state, shut down the state Capi­tol and riv­eted the nation for weeks ear­lier this year.

In a state in which just two state lawmakers have been suc­cess­fully re­called by vot­ers in more than 80 years, sud­denly Wis­con­sin vot­ers may soon be vot­ing on whether to cut short the tenures of up to six GOP and three Demo­cratic leg­is­la­tors.

Mr. Hop­per finds him­self in the crosshairs af­ter back­ing the gov­er­nor’s “bud­get-re­pair bill,” which sought to close a $3.6 bil­lion state deficit. The most con­tentious parts of the bill stripped teach­ers and other pub­lic-sec­tor union mem­bers of their right to col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing on is­sues other than wages and re­quired most pub­lic em­ploy­ees to con­trib­ute more to their health care and pen­sion plans.

Repub­li­cans main­tained that the law was vi­tal to dig the state out of a ma­jor fi­nan­cial hole and ad­dress chronic bud­get short­falls. Democrats in the Leg­is­la­ture, who were so op­posed they fled to neigh­bor­ing Illi­nois in a fu­tile bid to avoid a fi­nal vote, have called the gov­er­nor’s plan a union-bust­ing power trip that will back­fire on the state.

Adding to Mr. Hop­per’s po­lit­i­cal bur­den, a Pub­lic Pol­icy Polling sur­vey re­leased two weeks ago found that just 43 per­cent ap­prove of Gov. Walker’s per­for­mance in of­fice and 54 per­cent dis­ap­prove.

The union bill is tied up in courts, with a Dane Coun­try judge on May 26 rul­ing the way the law was passed vi­o­lated state leg­isla­tive rules. The key rul­ing on whether the union law can go into ef­fect will come af­ter the state Supreme Court hears ar­gu­ments set for June 6.

But even as the legal battle sim­mers, the “Com­mit­tee to Re­call Hop­per” is forg­ing ahead. The ad hoc group reg­is­tered with the state’s Gov­ern­ment Accountability Board on March 2 and by April 7 had turned in more than 23,000 sig­na­tures for a re­call vote, far more than the 15,000 needed.

Mr. Hop­per, who’s also had to deal with a pub­lic dis­pute in­volved his es­tranged wife even as the re­call cam­paign gath­ered mo­men­tum, has lit­tle mar­gin for er­ror, get­ting elected in 2008 by fewer than 200 votes.

Two other Repub­li­can can­di­dates, Dan Ka­panke of La Crosse and Luther Olsen of Ripon, also face cer­ti­fied re­call cam­paigns. As­sum­ing fi­nal state ap­proval is granted, the three Repub­li­cans will face chal­lengers July 12.

Pe­ti­tion drives are also on­go­ing against three other Repub­li­can state sen­a­tors and three prounion Democrats.

The re­call drives have the po­ten­tial to transform the bal­ance of power in Madi­son. Repub­li­cans hold a 19-14 edge in the state Se­nate, mean­ing that three suc­cess­ful re­calls would give the Democrats con­trol of the state’s up­per cham­ber.

Democrats are con­fi­dent of not.”

The re­call ef­fort was a grass­roots move­ment led by Scott Dill­man, a res­i­dent of Mr. Hop­per’s district. Mr. Dill­man said it was “very easy” to gather the re­quired num­ber of sig­na­tures.

Mark Jef­fer­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Wis­con­sin Repub­li­can Party, pre­dicted that all of the re­calls on both the Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can side are go­ing to be com­pet­i­tive.

“We’re tak­ing all of the chal­lenges very se­ri­ously, and we’re

“The Demo­cratic Party put the state into the ditch, and we’re tr ying to get out of it,” state Sen. Randy Hop­per said. “Peo­ple will re­al­ize it. We can’t mort­gage our kids’ fu­ture be­cause we’re done do­ing that. And once peo­ple will see that, they’ll get on board with what we’re do­ing here.”

their chances. Graeme Zielin­ski, Demo­cratic Party of Wis­con­sin spokesman, said the re­call ef­fort will “ab­so­lutely” lead to a change in lead­er­ship for Fond du Lac.

“I think [Randy Hop­per] is well out of step with the wishes of the com­mu­nity, stand­ing with Scott Walker in­stead of work­ing fam­i­lies in the district. [. . . ] It’s some­thing that he has to an­swer for,” Mr. Zielin­ski said. “He has not rep­re­sented his district, and he has not lis­tened. He thinks it’s all about Randy Hop­per, and it’s go­ing to ag­gres­sively de­fend all Repub­li­cans across Wis­con­sin,” Mr. Jef­fer­son said.

Mr. Jef­fer­son said he thinks Mr. Hop­per has a par­tic­u­larly strong record fo­cus­ing on keep­ing taxes low and cre­at­ing jobs for his district, while the Democrats in the state ran up the bills and put the state in a fi­nan­cial hole.

“We saw what [the Demo­cratic] agenda was,” Mr. Jef­fer­son said. “It was higher taxes, more reg­u­la­tion, job-killing poli­cies, and sell­ing out to unions and sup­port­ers. It was re­ward­ing their friends and pun­ish­ing their en­e­mies. If the Democrats were to some­how get con­trol of the Se­nate, that would be their agenda once again.”

Wis­con­sin Repub­li­cans al­ready sur­vived one par­tic­u­larly fierce chal­lenge, when Repub­li­can state Supreme Court Jus­tice David Prosser barely held on to his post over Demo­cratic chal­lenger JoAnne Klop­pen­burg in early April, but only af­ter ini­tial re­turns ap­peared to give Ms. Klop­pen­burg the win.

The ju­di­cial race, tra­di­tion­ally not a par­ti­san con­test, was widely seen as a first ref­er­en­dum on the gov­er­nor’s bill.

Mr. Hop­per said he is staying pos­i­tive in the face of the re­call drive.

“I feel con­fi­dent about the re­call, be­cause once I get the chance to sit down and talk to peo­ple in my district, they start to un­der­stand that this is the right thing for our state,” he said.

Mr. Hop­per also said time will show the ben­e­fits of the new law, as school dis­tricts in the state will be able to bal­ance their bud­gets with­out lay­ing off teach­ers.

“The Demo­cratic Party put the state into the ditch, and we’re try­ing to get out of it,” Mr. Hop­per said. “Peo­ple will re­al­ize it. We can’t mort­gage our kids’ fu­ture be­cause we’re done do­ing that. And once peo­ple will see that, they’ll get on board with what we’re do­ing here.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS

State of con­fronta­tion: A sup­por ter and an op­po­nent of Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walker’s bud­get-cut­ting ef­for ts ex­change words near the state Capi­tol in Madi­son on Feb. 19.

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