02/22/2012 11:17 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Bob Ryan, Wisconsin Mayor, Loses Recall Vote After Drinking Scandal

By Geoff Davidian

SHEBYOGAN, Wis--The mayor of a Wisconsin town whose heavy drinking last summer sparked pressure to step down lost a special election on Tuesday to a former Democratic state representative.

First-term Sheboygan Mayor Bob Ryan, 48, lost the first mayoral recall election in the city's history to Terry Van Akkeren, 57.

Van Akkeren received about 53 percent of the votes cast to Ryan's 46 percent, according to unofficial returns from the city clerk's office.

More than 4,000 Sheboygan voters had signed petitions to force the recall after Ryan was caught on tape making sordid jokes about a sister-in-law and was photographed passed out in a tavern during a drinking binge last summer.

Ryan had said on Monday he believed the recall election may have served as an intervention. He has said he has not had a drink for months.

"I have nothing to be ashamed of," Ryan said Tuesday after learning of the results, adding that he would not run again for mayor, "but maybe I'll write a book."

Ryan had said he believed the election should be about who could best bring jobs to Sheboygan, a city on Lake Michigan's western shore about midway between Milwaukee and Green Bay.

"The people have spoken," said Van Akkeren, who is expected to be sworn in as mayor on March 5.

Van Akkeren, whose son and son-in-law serve on the city council, had said the election should focus on the character of the mayor, which he said had led to Sheboygan being ridiculed by Jay Leno and others.

Ryan beat Van Akkeren to become mayor three years ago, but Van Akkeren defeated Ryan on Tuesday by about 750 votes and carried all but four of the city's 26 wards, according to the unofficial returns.

Ryan and Van Akkeren finished first and second respectively in an eight-way election on January 17. Since Ryan did not receive a majority of votes cast, a runoff election was called.

Van Akkeren drew broad support from labor after Ryan cut collective bargaining for many public sector workers under a state law passed last year. Van Akkeren said Tuesday he could not reinstate collective bargaining, as he had pledged to do if elected, but could give workers "a place at the table."

The Republican-controlled state legislature and Republican Governor Scott Walker last year approved laws limiting collective bargaining rights for many public sector employees, leading to mass pro-union protests at the state Capitol in Madison and a drive to recall the governor. The petitions seeking a Walker recall election are still being verified.

(Editing by David Bailey and Daniel Trotta)

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.