Subscribe for 33¢ / day

Vicky Burke knew they were out there: Democrats who had signed recall petitions against Gov. Scott Walker, people who supported her party's views but who didn't always turn out to vote.

So the La Crosse County Democratic Party, which Burke chairs, drew up a list of people who might be convinced — some would say hounded — to vote for challenger Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in Tuesday's recall election.

"We had a very concerted effort on the voter that doesn't come out except in presidential elections," said Burke, a retired teacher who serves on the La Crosse County Board. "I had very few people who we called who said they were undecided. Our calls were not to convince people. They were to get them out to vote."

La Crosse wasn't the only county getting out the vote. Statewide, turnout was 57.7 percent, the highest ever for a Wisconsin gubernatorial election. Turnout among eligible voters was up in every Wisconsin county by an average of 8 percentage points over 2010, a State Journal analysis showed.

La Crosse was one of seven Wisconsin counties to change political loyalties between the 2010 gubernatorial election and Tuesday's recall election. The county in which Walker beat Barrett by 115 votes in 2010 this time went for Barrett, by 2,027 votes.

But La Crosse County was only a localized victory for Democrats. Walker beat back Barrett's challenge and retained his seat with 53 percent of the vote in Tuesday's recall election, taking 60 of Wisconsin's 72 counties.

The traditionally Democratic population centers of Milwaukee and Madison went heavily for Barrett, but not as much as GOP counties ringing Milwaukee and in the Fox River Valley went for Walker. The highest turnout was in predominantly Republican Ozaukee County, where 73.3 percent of eligible voters went to the polls Tuesday.

La Crosse and two other counties flipped from Republican red to Democratic blue between 2010 and Tuesday: Kenosha and Columbia, where Barrett topped Walker by just 1 percentage point this time around.

There also were four Wisconsin counties — Crawford, Eau Claire, Green and Trempeleau counties — that reversed results from 2010 and went for Walker over Barrett.

Green County Republican Party chairman Gary Luhman said he did not need to scare up voters for Walker. The governor's supporters came to him, said Luhman, who describes his approach to politics as "low key" and "not in-your-face."

Luhman, district attorney of Green County, said he was surprised by the 300-plus supporters who asked for signs to plant in their yards and cow pastures — nearly double the number from 2010.

"The main thing we saw out of Election Night was Republican intensity in a lot of counties in Wisconsin," said Ben Sparks, spokesman for the Republican Party of Wisconsin.

In addition to flipping from supporting Barrett in 2010 to backing Walker in 2012, Green County also saw its voter turnout balloon by 11.6 percentage points over the previous election, one of the biggest increases in the state, the State Journal analysis showed. Overall, turnout there among people eligible to vote was 58.9 percent.

Luhman said Walker's moves to cut public employee pay and reduce government spending — which sparked protests drawing thousands to the state Capitol in 2011 — also appeared to mobilize support for the governor among many Green County Republicans.

Luhman saw his take-home pay shrink just as other public employees had. Many local public sector workers strongly opposed changes championed by Walker that curtailed the power of their unions to bargain and forced them to pay more for pensions and health insurance.

"(But) I was also able to see the other side of the equation. Taxpayers, business people and retired citizens had just as strong feelings about the necessity to control state spending and require state employees to 'pay their fair share,'" Luhman said.

0
0
0
0
0