Wisconsin Gov. Walker to keep job in recall election
Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who is facing a recall election, shakes hands with a man during his vote casting on election day.
MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker made history Tuesday, becoming the first US governor to survive a recall election, after a bitterly contested fight over his efforts to curb unions.
He held off a challenge by Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett amid heavy turnout for the state. FOX News called the race shortly before 10:00pm ET.
With 50 percent of precincts reporting, Walker had 58.2 percent of the vote to 41.2 percent for Barrett.
But Barrett refused to concede the race, citing the ongoing voting.
“It’s way too early to call it,” Phil Walzak, a spokesman for Barrett, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“People are still in line voting and 80 percent of the vote hasn’t been counted. There are still a lot of votes to count.”
Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch also survived recall, according to FOX, with 58.1 percent of the vote to 41.9 percent for the Democratic challenger, Mahlon Mitchell.
Walker is only the third governor in US history to face a recall election. the two previous attempts were both successful, unseating California Gov. Gray Davis in 2003 and Lynn Frazier of North Dakota in 1921.
The Wisconsin recall was triggered by a backlash to a law Walker signed in March 2011, two months after taking office, that forced government workers to pay for more of their pension and health care benefits while also cutting most of their collective bargaining rights.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney congratulated Walker, tweeting, “I congratulate @ScottKWalker on his victory in WI. Tonight’s results will echo beyond the borders of Wisconsin.”
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus called the victory one for all Americans.
“Liberty and freedom won tonight. People of their word won tonight,” he said on FOX News. “Barack Obama is in for a dogfight here in Wisconsin. This is a big night for all Republicans across America.”
The race drew more than $60 million in spending by the campaigns and their allies — most of that supporting Walker and much of it from outside Wisconsin — and it saw prominent politicians from both parties travel to the state to rally support, although President Obama was not among them.
The recall race also has turned Wisconsin from a state Obama considered a sure bet for his re-election campaign into a potential battleground. In 2008 he won Wisconsin by 14 percentage points, but on Monday, his campaign manager Jim Messina characterized the state as a tossup, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Wisconsin voters Tuesday also cast ballots in recall elections for four Republican state senators, in a race that could determine whether the GOP continues to hold on to control of the Senate, which it won in 2010.