The story of how state Sens. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon; and Randy Hopper, R-Fond du Lac, are the subjects of a July primary and August recall election is as odd as the idea of two summer elections. Just the same, voters will go to the polls Tuesday for a primary election to determine their opponents in an Aug. 9 recall election, a tale with a few plot twists along the way as well.
It began on Feb. 10 when Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature proposed to curtail the ability of some public employee unions to collectively bargain for wages and benefits and required employees to pay parts of their health insurance and pension contributions.
Eleven Democratic state senators fled the state Feb. 17 to block a quorum on a vote of the bill. Thousands of residents flooded Madison to demonstrate over the next weeks. Republicans approved the collective bargaining provisions on March 9, just days after the Democratic Party of Wisconsin teamed up with Oshkosh and Ripon area residents to launch recall campaigns against Olsen and Hopper based on their votes and what critics called an unwillingness to respond or talk with residents about the bill’s impact.
By May, the state Supreme Court reviewed legal challenges to passage of the budget repair bill and the collective bargaining changes. Citizens filed recall petitions against six Republican senators — Hopper and Olsen included — and three Democrats.
Jessica King, who lost to Hopper by fewer than 200 votes in 2008, declared in early May she would challenge him in the recall election. Shortly after the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board finished its review of petition challenges in late May and early June, the Republican Party enlisted “protest” candidates to run against Democrats, forcing Tuesday’s primary to delay the general election to Aug. 9 so recalled Republicans could finish state budget deliberations and have more time to campaign.