While Gov. Scott Walker called for more bipartisanship in the wake of his recall victory, a bitter fight over who controls the state Senate threatens any chance at reconciliation as Republicans fight to hold on and Democrats look to extract a victory from the recall season. The closely watched recount of a Republican state senator’s recall election is scheduled to wrap up Monday, but the battle over who will control the chamber for the rest of the year won’t end when the final ballot is tallied. Lawsuits are expected, and would probably drag out the process for weeks or months. “If they continue to try and hold onto this seat, white-knuckled kicking and screaming, it’s going to continue the same partisan battles we’ve been having and that they supposedly wanted to end,” said Democratic state Sen. Chris Larson. An official canvass after the June 5 election showed Democratic challenger John Lehman leading GOP Sen. Van Wanggaard by 834 votes out of nearly 72,000 ballots cast, for a margin of 1.2 percentage points.
Even if Democrats survive the recount, their 17-16 majority might be short-lived. Sixteen senators — six Republicans, eight Democrats and two open seats currently held by Democrats — are up for elections in the fall. Those races will determine which party has control over the next two years. Thanks to a Republican-friendly new legislative district map passed last year, the GOP has reason to be confident about having control next year.
Still, Democrats see plenty to gain by winning the Wanggaard seat and holding the majority over the next six months even though the Senate isn’t scheduled or expected to be back in session. Democrats could lay claim to the Senate presidency, and they would also have a leg up heading into the fall elections as Republicans would have to win at least one more seat than them to take over. Democrats called on Wanggaard not to challenge the results, saying a recount would waste time and at least several thousand dollars of taxpayers’ money. But Wanggaard said the margin was so small that voters deserved to know their ballots were counted accurately.