With a heavy reliance on current and former legislators, Wisconsin Democrats have announced candidates against three of the four Republican state senators facing recall elections this year.
The Democrats will be fielding state Rep. Donna Seidel against Sen. Pam Galloway in a Wausau district, former Sen. John Lehman against Sen. Van Van Wanggaard in a Racine district, and former state Rep. Kristen Dexter against Sen. Terry Moulton in a Chippewa Falls area district. A challenger to Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Clyman) is still being recruited.
"We could not have done better," Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) said. "They are folks that people have voted for before."
Miller said Democrats aimed to recruit known candidates in each of the districts, in two cases setting up rematches. Lehman, who served 14 years in the legislature, was defeated by Wanggaard in his 2010 reelection fight and Dexter defeated Moulton for an Assembly seat in 2008.
Lehman said he is not seeking payback against Wanggaard for defeating him 2010, but rather believes that the Republican has not represented Racine County well in the Senate. He was quick to tie Wanggaard to Gov. Scott Walker (R), who is facing his own recall election this year, and who has come under fire for his education aid cuts and changes to collective bargaining rights. Wanggaard has voted with Walker in these areas.
Both Seidel and Dexter jumped on the theme of Walker's policies and the Republican actions in the Senate, saying that they believe that there is a need for a change. Seidel said she had been contacted by constituents about challenging Galloway, while Dexter said the over 21,000 petition signatures to put a recall against Moulton on the ballot helped convince her to jump into the race.
Miller said recruitment efforts are still underway for a candidate to challenge Fitzgerald in the historically Republican district, noting that he believes a candidate can be found within the next 60 days.
An election date for the Senate recalls has not been set yet by the state Government Accountability Board, but Miller said the party believes it would likely be in early June.
Miller said he believes Democrats will likely have a shot of winning the three races that were announced today, noting that Democrats have held the Senate seats in the past. Following last year's recall election in the Senate, Democrats are one vote away from controlling the upper house. Miller pointed to the 21,000 to 24,000 petition signatures in each of the districts as encouraging to him of Democratic victory in the races.
"We have a voter list like nothing you have seen before," Miller said.
State Republicans were quick to tie Lehman, Dexter and Seidel to past policies in Wisconsin and predicted victory in the recalls.
"The candidates announced to challenge Republican state senators in potential recall elections are nothing more than conveyor belt Democrats who boast records of fiscal catastrophe," state Republican Party spokesman Ben Sparks said in a statement. "All three supported tax increases of over $5 billion, engaged in out-of-control spending binges, which led to Wisconsin's $3.6 billion budget deficit, and were at the helm as thousands of hard-working Wisconsin citizens were let go from their jobs due to massive tax hikes."