Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tale of two recalls: WI Senators Hansen & Cowles

One of the consequences of Governor Walker's budget repair bill has been efforts to recall both Democratic and Republican state senators.  The Green Bay area happens to be represented by one of each, Republican Robert Cowles and Democrat Dave Hansen.  There is one crucial difference in these recall efforts, however, Cowles is being targeted for doing the job he was elected to do.  Hansen, on the other hand, is being targeted for leaving the state to avoid that very same job.

The Journal Sentinel recently offered a glimpse into which state senators are particularly vulnerable to a recall by taking a look at the vote for Obama in 2008 and Walker in 2010 in each senate district.  You can read the article here.  They remark that Cowles represents a district where Obama got more than 50% of the vote in 2008 and then end on this note, which they included in an update:
Update:  Related to the point above about personal popularity, some of the lawmakers on this list had very narrow victories last time, while others won unopposed or by large margins. It's important to factor that in as well. Republicans
In 2008 Hansen won re-election with 66% of the vote, a healthy margin to be sure, but the margin for Cowles was even bigger.  In 2008 there were just under 61,000 votes cast in the 2nd Senate District that Cowles represents, he got 99% of them.

So in Cowles, we have a state senator subjected to a recall drive who just two years ago was able to command 99% of the vote in his district.  Add to that the fact that he is the subject of a recall primarily because some Democratic leaning interest groups don't like the efforts of the Governor to curtail collective bargaining for public employees, and Cowles has publicly been supportive of the Governor's bill.

Hansen, by contrast, didn't command that much of the vote in the last election.  More importantly from my perspective is the fact that Hansen has fled the state with the express intent of shutting down  legislative activity in the state of Wisconsin, at least with respect to fiscal matters.

As I've said before, I'm dubious with respect to the value of recall efforts.  Elections have consequences, and we shouldn't seek to undo them without cause.  Perhaps some see the end of collective bargaining for public employees as such a cause  For my money, leaving the state just to avoid losing a vote in the legislature  seems like a much more compelling reason to undo election results.


Alex said...

A couple of these points seem a little deceiving.

First of all, it is true that most polling states that Wisconsin voters disapprove of the Senate Democrats' actions in leaving the state, but only by a narrow majority, 47% approve to 51% disapprove. So let's dissect that a bit. That number includes the whole state, including Washington and Waukesha Counties. Take those heavily Republican areas out, and it's quite possible that the remainder of the state, and particularly the Senate Democrats' districts, actually approve of their actions. So to say that Hansen is "avoiding his job" is a bit misleading--though there hasn't been any district level polling, it's quite possible that most, if not all of the people who voted for Hansen back in Nov. 2008, want him to kill the bill by any means necessary, including leaving the state.

It's also a bit misleading to say that Cowles got 99% of the vote. I mean, if you're going to argue that, then I'll see your Cowles, Olsen, and Lazich, and I'll raise you Taylor, Coggs, Risser, and my very own senator Mark Miller. But seriously, all that really means is that all of the Democrats in Cowles's district, including the 393 who actually bothered to write in someone else besides Cowles, just didn't feel strongly enough about Cowles to go out and get signatures to be on the ballot against him. If there was a Democrat on the ballot in 2008 against Cowles, he or she probably would have gotten at least half of the votes Obama got (and probably more), for an absolute bare minimum of 26.2%.

Remember too that Democrats actually did stand by as Republicans passed a lot of other sweeping bills, including tort reform, the "income tax cap" bill, and the regulatory reform bill. It is only this bill that Democrats felt strongly enough to leave the state. Republicans seem to be arguing from the premise that this is just an ordinary bill and so the Democrats should stand by and let it go through. Clearly, however, we do not agree with you on that point.

Personally, I'd rather get rid of all of these stalling tactics, including quorum busting on the state level, and the filibuster on the national level. If we were living in a world where national Senate Republicans hadn't just set an all-time record for filibustering over the last two years, I'd be much harder on the WI 14 for what they are doing.

I'd also rather decrease the influence of both corporations and unions on elections, and have it be much more tilted towards individuals than it is now.

But in both areas, stalling tactics and campaign funding for elections, I'm not about to go in for unilateral disarmament. You seem to think that Democrats should allow both in one fell swoop, on Walker's bill, and just let the Republicans bludgeon them from now until eternity with campaign ads from corporations, with absolutely no resources to respond. My answer is absolutely not.

Anonymous said...

Frankly, Dave Hansen's 66 % is a much more important number than Cowles unopposed number.

What's actually a more important number was Hansen's elect number against Gary Dryzwicki, 55 (in a down dem year against the guy he beat 4 years earlier by 1000 votes).

Just because a seat has been held, and unchallenged, by one party does not make that an all or nothing go.

Marlin Schneider held his central Wisconsin seat for 800 years, and lost.

Mary Hubler was a long serving Assemblywoman from the northwoods, and upon retirement the seat flipped.

If the number of signatures are there to recall Rob Cowles, he might be in for a bit more of a fight than he's used to, considering he's used to running without an opponent.

But hey, I know those are concrete examples and you're only really interested in your rhetoric about how it'll be easy to beat Dave Hansen (good luck with that standing around in the courthouse thing)

Jeremy R. Shown said...

Anon - I don't think I said it would be easy to beat Hansen anywhere in the post.

Alex - Long comment, you should get a blog! A couple of quick points:

1. I don't need polling to tell me whether or not I think Hansen is doing his job. He manifestly is not. Now you may agree with what he is doing, but that is just a rationalization, you can't actually claim he is literally doing his job.

2. I agree there are a number of Democrats that are not likely to be recalled (for example Coggs) nothing I said in the post disputes that.

Overall, I don't think we should try to undo election results through recall. I also don't think we should try to undo election results by leaving the state and bringing legislative activity on fiscal matters to a halt.

Anonymous said...

I didn't mean to put words into your mouth. Your post led me to believe that your position is it is exponentially easier to recall Dave Hansen than Rob Cowles.

My point simply is that just because someone runs unopposed since I've been able to vote (his last contested race was 1996 and contested is a loose word) does not make him/her hard to recall/beat in a recall.

Especially when you look at the trends in some of those places and where the population centers are.

In an election with low turn out, the motivated vote.

This district isn't the MKE Suburbs, it's a blue collar working district, with some value labor voters, who annecdotally will likely be voting pocketbook not guns/gays.