Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker repelled an effort to oust him, defeating Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in only the third recall election of a state chief executive in U.S. history.
Walker, 44, won today’s election 58 percent to 41 percent, according to preliminary results from the Associated Press with 65 percent of the vote counted.
The effort to choose a new governor 17 months into Walker’s term began in response to his legislatively approved restrictions on collective bargaining for public-employee unions. The ouster fight drew national attention, more than $63 million in campaign contributions and polarized the state of 5.7 million people.
“Bringing our state together will take some time, but I hope to start right away,” Walker said in a prepared statement. “It is time to put our differences aside and figure out ways that we can move Wisconsin forward.”
The election was a replay of the 2010 governor’s race, in which Walker defeated Barrett, 58, by about 125,000 votes. Turnout was heavy statewide, election officials reported.
Barrett said Walker had started an “ideological civil war” in Wisconsin last year with union restrictions and cuts to public education. The governor said government costs needed to be controlled and reminded voters that he balanced the budget without raising taxes.
Even before the vote was counted, Democrats and Republicans were spinning the significance of the outcome for November’s election between President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and former Republican Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
“Tonight’s results will echo beyond the borders of Wisconsin,” Romney said in a prepared statement.
The organization and mobilization of Wisconsin Republicans to protect Walker could provide Romney a boost in the state, which Obama carried in 2008. Former President George W. Bush came within a few thousand votes of winning the state in both previous election cycles.
Also boosting Republican confidence are their 2010 victories in the state, when the party won the governor’s office, as well as a U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Russ Feingold.
To contact the reporters on this story: Timothy Jones in Milwaukee at email@example.com; Mark Niquette in Milwaukee at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at email@example.com